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Families of Armenia’s 1 March massacre victims boycott court 

9 September 2020
Screenshot of live-stream of 1 March case plaintiff press conference.

The family members of protesters slain during post-electoral unrest in Armenia on 1 March 2008 have announced that they will be boycotting Robert Kocharyan’s trial after criticising the supposed ineffectuality of the proceedings. 

The boycott was announced during a press conference on Monday.  

The case concerns a crackdown on anti-government protests following the election of Serzh Sargsyan to the presidency which left 10 dead and over 100 injured.

Former President Robert Kocharyan, who was the outgoing president at the time, stands accused of ‘overthrowing the constitutional order’ for his role in suppressing the unrest. He is accused of illegally involving the armed forces and breaching the Armenian constitution. If convicted he faces 10 to 15 years in prison. 

In addition to Kocharyan, several high-ranking officials, including former Defence Minister Seyran Ohanyan and former General Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Yuri Khachaturov have also been charged in relation with the 1 March events. 

Each of the accused is to be tried separately. Despite the boycott by the plaintiffs, the trial against Robert Kocharyan will continue. 

‘It’s a cheap show’ 

During the press conference, Tigran Yegoryan, one of the lawyers representing the families of the victims, stated that they would no longer attend hearings which he has said are ‘without content’.

‘There is no trial,’ said Yegoryan during the press conference. ‘It’s a cheap show.’ Meanwhile, one speaker at the press conference warned that if the situation was not resolved, ‘the consequences will be dire, for us all’.

Issues raised during the press conference included the disappearance of case-relevant documents from the National Security Service (NSS) which, according to the speakers, were a result of state bodies not cooperating with each other and, instead, sabotaging each other. 

One of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, Seda Safaryan, claimed that for the past two years information has been leaked from the NSS which has negatively affected the work of the Special Investigative Services which is in charge of the case.

The former head of the NSS, Artur Vanetsyan was forced to resign from his position in September 2019, after the country's ruling authorities insinuated he had improper ties with Robert Kocharyan. 

Safaryan said his removal did not go far enough. 

‘There have been attempts at the state level to fix this issue’, Safaryan said.  ‘But appointing someone new doesn’t mean you’ve changed your staff.’ 

The lawyers clarified that they did not underestimate their role in the case, however, they no longer wished to take part in a trial which had become ‘repetitive and deviated from the main case at hand.’ 

‘There can be no plaintiff’

In an interview with the Armenian Times, one of Kocharyan’s lawyers, Aram Vardevanyan, said that he could not  ‘give an objective opinion’ on the statements made during the press conference. 

However, Vardevanyan did say that it is normal for cases of such importance to proceed slowly. As an example, he brought up the case of the 2016 police station attack by the Sasna Dzrer (Daredevils of Sasun) which has not yet been resolved. He also denied claims of filing spurious appeals, stating that all of the appeals issued by Kocharyan’s legal team had relevance to the case. 

One of the most recent appeals made by the ex-president’s lawyers included one in which they asked the court to strip the plaintiffs from their status as plaintiffs and exclude them from the case. They claimed that since the charge against Kocharyan involves ‘overthrowing the constitutional order,’ then there can be no, in fact, be no plaintiffs, as they did not suffer damages due to the charge in question. 

Anna Danibekyan, the judge presiding over the case, denied the appeal. 

 

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