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Armenian Judge Hands Down Harsher Punishment Than Proposed by Prosecution

Vahe Khalatyan, Judge of the First Instance Court of Armavir province, going beyond the formal accusations against defendant Argishti Saribekyan found him guilty not only of two counts of robbery and aggravated assault, but also announced that Saribekyan was the organizer of the crimes, defense attorney Alvard Mnatsakanyan informed Epress.am on Friday, August 28. 

Thus, the Judge added two years to the prosecutor's requested 10 years and sentenced Saribekyan to 12 years in prison. 

Along with Saribekyan three other persons were convicted of assault and robbery and received prison terms ranging from 8 to 10 years, despite the fact that they had paid compensation for the computers stolen from two village municipalities and there were no complaints from the other victims whose house they had entered.

Argishti Saribekyan, the lawyer said, denies taking part in the crime. The defendant lived in Russia; he had come to Armenia for a short period of time and was detained on his way back to Russia. Moreover, Saribekyan was told he had to go to the station because of some bank obligations but was arrested upon arrival. 

According to Alvard Mnatsakanyan, charges against Saribekyan were based on the testimony of another defendant, Karen Khachatryan, a minor, who alleged that Saribekyan had been with them during the robbery. Khachatryan, as stated by the lawyer, testified without the presence of a parent or a pedagogue. One of the other suspects, Grigor Nersisyan, also testified against Saribekyan during the pre-trial investigation; however, he later demanded that the prosecutor provide him with a lawyer and renounced his testimony in the presence of the latter, claiming he was not acquainted with Saribekyan. 

Judge Khalatyan, Mnatsakanyan said, has denied all of her motions during the trial and did not ensure fair competition between the parties, thus depriving the defense of the possibility of presenting any evidence.

In particular, Khalatyan denied the attorney's motion for the questioning of minor Karen Khachatryan's pedagogue, as well as the sole witness of the crime, Karen Yengibaryan. In addition, the court did not assess the fact that Saribekyan's name never came up in the recordings of telephone conversations between the three other suspects. The court, Mnatsakanyan said, did not examine the video footage from the crime scene or the victims' preliminary testimonies, either, which, according to the lawyer, is also a violation. During the preliminary investigation the victims testified that four persons had entered their house, meanwhile, in court they stated that in reality there were only three people.

The case is currently at the Court of Appeal. At the previous hearing the judge granted Alvard Mnatsakanyan's motion for the questioning of the sole witness, Karen Yengibaryan, which will take place at the next hearing in September.