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Trial Over Brother of Yerevan Armed Group Member Tainted By Judge’s Obvious Bias, Lawyer Says

Assigning Ararat Khandoyan a public defender against his will is a plain violation of his right to defense, Khandoyan’s chosen lawyer, Ara Gharagyozyan, told Epress.am on Friday, adding that he has already taken the issue to Armenia’s Human Rights Ombudsman.

Ararat Khandoyan, brother of Sasna Tsrer (Daredevils of Sasun) anti-government group member Arayik Khandoyan, was arrested on July 21, 2016, following clashes between police and supporters of Sasna Tsrer and is being accused of taking part in mass disorders and using violence against a police officer. During a hearing two weeks ago, judge Mnatsakan Martirosyan removed Khandoyan from the courtroom “for disruptive behavior,” after which, Khandoyan’s lawyer, Ara Gharagyozyan, also left the premises. Martirosyan then decided to deprive Gharagyozyan from the right to represent Khandoyan and instead assigned the defendant public defender Lianna Gasparyan against Khandoyan’s wishes.

“The Ombudsman is not usually involved in trials, but here we are dealing with a violation of Khandoyan’s human rights and an obstruction of justice. We have also asked the Ombudsman to send one of his staffers to Khandoyan’s next hearing [on May 18] in order to keep record of the illegalities taking place in the courtroom,” Gharagyozyan said.

Commenting on judge Martirosyan’s conduct, the lawyer noted that the judge has been showing his bias over the case right from the beginning; “There are two prosecutors in the courtroom – the real one, Hayk Petrosyan, and judge Mnatsakan Martirosyan. He has been making it evident that he fully supports the accusations [against Khandoyan] and cannot therefore be considered an impartial judge conducting a fair trial.”

Gharagyozyan is convinced that the decision to appoint Martirosyan as a presiding judge in Khandoyan’s case was not coincidental, since “all politically-motivated trials in Armenia are usually presided over by him. There is a tendency here that all Armenian political prisoners should be sentenced by Martirosyan.”