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Judge Surprised by Gaspari’s No-Show, Had Removed Him from Courtroom for 6 Court Hours

Yerevan's Shengavit district court, presided over by judge Nelly Baghdasryan, was scheduled Thursday to continue hearing civic activist Vardges Gaspari's case. However, before the hearing even began, the judge asked Gaspari's lawyer, Tigran Yegoryan, why his client had not come to court.

Yegoryan had to remind judge Baghdasryan that she had removed Gaspari from the courtroom for 6 court hours at the previous sitting, to which the judge replied, saying that she has already overruled her own applied sanction. Baghdasaryan then gave the lawyer 5 minutes to contact Gaspari and find out whether he was going to show up.

The activist, as it turned out, had not been notified properly about the judge's decision to allow him after all to attend his case hearings, Yegoryan told Baghdasaryan after the 5-minute break. The judge had nothing left to do but to adjourn the hearing until March 9 “because of the defendant's failure to appear.”

In the meantime, Gaspari, who was last month taken to a week-long custody and subjected to torture and abuse by cellmates at the Nubarashen prison, might now be facing involuntary psychiatric treatment.

Gaspari was scheduled to undergo an investigation-ordered forensic psychiatric evaluation Thursday at Yerevan's Nork mental health clinic; the assessment, however, was postponed by the evaluation committee since the activist's lawyers have filed an appeal challenging the investigator's decision. 

“The evaluation cannot take place today because [the prosecutor’s office] might still grant our appeal and annul the investigator's decision,” Gaspari's attorney, Tigran Yegoryan, told Epress.am. The activist, Yegoryan added, would not undergo a psychiatric evaluation until they have exhausted all available appeal remedies.

“This is another method of subjecting Gaspari to pressure and persecution.  It's an age-old Soviet-era practice which serves as an alternative to criminal prosecution and is often even more efficient in terms of breaking and taming people,” the lawyer stated