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Defendant Says Connivance of Armenian Authorities Turned Him Into ‘Vigilante’

Passions ran high at a hearing on Friday in the case of Hayk Kyureghyan, Armenian programmer accused of hooliganism and committing violence against a representative of the authorities, where the court was to issue its final verdict. The defendant was once again not present at his own trial. Recall, judge Armen Bektashyan had removed the defendant from the courtroom at one of the previous hearings for acting in contempt of court (Kyureghyan did not stand up when the judge entered the room). 

Before the judge's arrival, around two dozen of the defendant's supporters began chanting “Freedom to Hayk Kyureghyan!” At the start of the hearing, which had begun with a 25 minute delay, judge Bektashyan proceeded to reading some text in a quite voice. When those present complained and demanded the judge speak louder Bektashyan claimed “the microphone is broken.” However, his response did not satisfy Kyureghyan's supporters who continued to demand to “speak louder!”

The irritated judge announced a 5 minute break: on his way out of the courtroom, however, he demanded that one of the most active of Kyureghyan's supporters also leave the room. The bailiffs asked those present to leave the room during the break, but to no avail. Five minutes later a new wave of protest arose in the courtroom: people were unhappy with the non-operating air conditioner and the absence of the judge. 

Meanwhile, one of the defendant's supporters, a member of the “Pre-Parliament” movement Gagik Sarukhanyan asked prosecutor Harutyun Sargsyan how he could sleep at night after demanding 14 years for Kyureghyan: “Doesn't your conscience bother you?” Sarukhanyan asked him.

The prosecutor, however, did not answer and quickly left the room when the bailiff announced that for technical reasons the hearing was being moved to another room. 

'The other room' – Courtroom No. 1 – is the smallest one in the General Jurisdiction Court of the Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts. Annoyed, Kyureghyan's supporters claimed the judge had deliberately moved to this courtroom to deprive them of their right to attend the hearing. Later, only journalists were let in, while the bailiffs announced there was no more room for others.

People then gathered at the entrance of the courtroom and did not allow the bailiffs to close the doors. After a short skirmish between the officers and Kyureghyan's supporters, Judge Bektashyan announced the hearing was being adjourned until 3 pm. 

At the resumption of the hearing, defendant Kayk Kyureghyan was brought to the courtroom and given an opportunity to speak his last words. He used to be a non-partisan and an apolitical man, the defendant said; however, the connivance of the authorities forced him “to submit to these measures.” Kyureghyan added he could not live in a country where police beat peaceful protesters: the impunity in the country has turned him into a vigilante since “there is no other way.” In his last words the defendant assured his supporters he was not going to serve 14 years in prison: “I might not even serve 14 days because the regime might not survive that long,” Kyureghyan said.

At the end of the hearing Judge Bektashyan announced the verdict would be issued on September 15.

Recall, at the start of the June 12 hearing in the case of Shant Harutyunyan and his friends, Kyureghyan climbed onto a car outside the courthouse and shot rounds from an air pistol in the police's direction, attempting, he said, to prevent "an erroneous judgment on Shant."

Kyureghyan informed head of a group of civil society members monitoring conditions in Armenian prisons and detention centers Hasmik Sahakyan, who had come to visit him at the Erebuni temporary detention center, that he was ill-treated during and after the arrest.