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Victims’ Relatives Doubt Gyumri Massacre Suspect Was Acting Alone (Photo)

Valery Permyakov, a Russian soldier accused of brutally murdering a seven-member Armenian family last January in Gyumri, sat with his head bowed inside a glass cage as Armenian judicial authorities began hearing his case on Friday in a court staged on the premises of the 102nd Russian military base. The defendant hardly ever looked toward the audience, so cameras had a hard time photographing his face. 

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Peculiarly Respectful Police

Journalists arriving at the military base for the December 18 hearing were treated with emphasized respect by both Armenian law enforcement officers and the servicemen and staffers of the Russian base; although, the latter mainly tried to go unnoticed. The local police were willing to do anything to help. A tent had been installed for reporters about 20 meters from the “courtroom.” Evidently, officials had done a significant job in order to avoid potential issues. However, these efforts can hardly be called successful, as evidenced by the numerous complaints about the unsatisfactorily conducted hearing on the territory of the base.

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Police pulled the reporters’ cars over 30 meters from the main entrance and made them walk the rest of the way. The lawyers of the victims’ relatives were also stopped; after short negotiations, however, they were allowed to move forward with their cars. As a result, the relatives’ legal representatives couldn’t avoid being late to the hearing. 

Permyakov – a Satanist?

Yerem Sargsyan, one of the lawyers of the Avetisyans’ relatives, announced during the hearing that Permyakov was a member of a Satanist sect, citing notes made by the suspect on his social network account. The 20-year-old soldier, Sargsyan claimed, had promised to “sacrifice several men and women to You […] to serve and obey You forever and ever.”

Lawyer Lusine Sahakyan agreed with Sargsyan’s allegations that Permyakov had had a “Satanist motive to slaughter the Avetisyans.”
However, Yerem Sargsyan added, when asked by investigators why he had written the corresponding notes, Permyakov had answered: “I just did.”


Relatives have other questions

The Avetisyans’ relatives, on the other hand, have other concerns. Speaking to reporters during one of the many breaks, Rima Avetisyan stated they did not believe Permyakov had acted alone: “I see his face and his state, and I know it’s him… But he wasn’t alone; someone had pushed him to it. I don’t believe when they say he’d had robbery motives. If he’d wanted to rob [the Avetisyans], he’d have killed the homeowner and taken the money.”


Asked by Epress.am as to whether the lawyers were discussing the abovementioned theory, Yerem Sargsyan replied “there is no factual evidence” supporting the claim.

After the hearing, he once again talked about Permyakov having satanic beliefs: “Of course, we’re not arguing that the main motive of the crime was robbery; however, everything that happened inside the house is a result of his satanic beliefs. If he weren’t a Satanist, events just might have developed differently,” Sargsyan told Epress.am.

Trial should not be held on the premises of the Russian military base

No matter how hard organizers had tried to create favorable conditions for the proceedings, there were still complaints, and they came first of all from the relatives of the Avetisyans. 

“Why is [the trial] being held at the military base? Don’t we have a court? [Armenia’s General Prosecutor Gevorg] Kostanyan and [President] Serzh Sargsyan had promised [Permyakov] would be tried by an Armenian court. So why have they brought us to the military base. And the conditions! They must be kidding us,” Rima Avetisyan told reporters.

The area serving as the “courtroom” was too small to even host the aggrieved party and all of their representatives. After the hearing, lawyer Lusine Sahakyan told reporters: “The court is not independent; they’ve obviously been intimidated. [The trial] should be presided, and choices should be dictated by the Republic of Armenia.”

Controversial Russian servicemen

Artur Sakunts, another lawyer for the Avetisyans’ relatives and head of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office, did not like the idea of two Russian soldiers standing next to Permyakov’s glass cage throughout the hearing. He motioned for their removal from the room, stating that their presence was “legally baseless, as well as distressing.” 

Presiding Judge Harutyun Movsisyan, however, dismissed the motion, citing the fact the Permyakov is a Russian national who’s also serving a separate sentence imposed by the Russian side. “The Russian servicemen are ensuring security measures,” he said. 


Defense lawyer needs time

Eduard Aghajanyan, the defense lawyer, has only recently been assigned Permyakov’s case, so he motioned to the court for a 30-day postponement so that he could get acquainted with the case.

The lawyers of the relatives of the victims did not object the motion since “the accused has a right to adequate defense,” so the presiding judge adjourned the hearing until January 18, 2016.

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