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“Country is Falling Apart”: Armenian Revolutionary Asks Court Not to Postpone Trial

The first hearing in the case of Shant Harutyunyan (pictured, in orange) and the other dozen or so men arrested in clashes with police on November 5, 2013, was held in Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan today.  

Court bailiffs didn't permit relatives of the detainees or the majority of journalists to enter the courtroom, explaining that there's no room. The Epress.am correspondent however, later entering the room found many empty seats. 

The first hearing didn't last long. Presiding Judge Mnatsakan Martirosyan declared that  the session could not take place due to the absence of most of the defenders. The defendants objected to this, and Shant Harutyunyan said, "The country is falling apart. Don't postpone our trial." 

Harutyunyan then urged his comrades to refuse legal counsel, stating that the presence of an attorney is not necessary, as this is political persecution. 

"He who believes that a lawyer is able to help believes there is justice in Armenia. If I believed [this], I wouldn’t have grabbed a baton; I would pin my hopes on the elections, and wait for the year 2018. But they deal with the public outside of the law. I didn’t want to be an ass [i.e. pretend not to understand], and so I have responded to them outside of the law. What can a lawyer do?" he said.  

The political activist made one other statement: "On behalf of me and my friends, I offer my condolences to Smbat Ayvazyan's family and friends. Finding myself in the same prison today, I often remember the days spent with Smbat Ayvazyan and Suren Sirunyan, when we were imprisoned in the case of March 1 [2008]. To the other boys, I wish a long and happy life. No matter how heavy those days were, today I remember the feeling of happiness," he concluded.

Recall, Harutyunyan was initially accused of using violence against a representative of the authorities. The charge was later changed to "hooliganism committed with a weapon." Many local human rights defenders and activists say he is being political persecuted and refer to him as a political prisoner. 

Harutyunyan conducted a sit-in at Liberty Square in Yerevan, declaring his intention to start a revolution. On November 5, he attempted to march with hundreds of supporters wearing Guy Fawkes masks and armed with sticks and homemade stun grenades to the presidential palace. However, they were confronted by riot police, and "Harutyunyan and 13 other men were arrested on the spot and subsequently accused of assaulting police officers," reports RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun). Eyewitnesses claim there were provocateurs and plainclothes officers at the scene.