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Hearing in Gaspari Case Continues Amid Heated Arguments

During a March 16 hearing into the case against civic activist Vardges Gaspari, who is accused of insulting police officers and a judge, as well as of obstructing court hearings, Shengavit district court judge Nelly Baghdasaryan insisted that court-appointed lawyer Liana Gasparyan represent Gaspari, despite the defendant's refusal to accept the public defender's services. 

Gaspari showed up to the hearing yesterday without his lawyers since judge Baghdasaryan decided at the previous hearing to remove Gaspari's three representatives from the case on the basis that they either failed, on multiple occasions, to appear in court, or left the courtroom without the court's permission. 

When Gaspari declined the public defender's services and demanded that she leave the courtroom, lawyer Gasparyan told the court that the law did not allow her to represent the defendant against his will. The judge, however, was adamant in her decision, and to Gasparyan's objection that her involvement in the case would only be a pretense, she simply replied; “Of course.”

Gaspari, further angered by this statement, yelled at the public defender to leave the courtroom, and the latter complied, despite the judge's demand to stay in place. Following a short leave to the deliberation room, the judge announced she was going to appeal to the Chamber of Advocates to initiate contempt proceedings against Gasparyan.

After the court-appointed lawyer left, Gaspari complained to the judge that none of his three lawyers had been notified about the Wednesday hearing and that it was not necessarily that all of them were always present at the trial. However, the judge did not let the defendant finish his speech, and Gaspari stated that he had no choice but to lie on the floor in protest as he was being deprived of his right to speak.

Judge Baghdasaryan tried several times to find out whether Gaspari agreed that the court proceeded with the hearing in his lawyers' absence. Receiving no answer, however, she announced that the defendant did not mind, which resulted in the outraged Gaspari standing up and leaving the room.

The absense of the defendant, as well as that of his lawyers, did not prevent the judge from proceeding with the hearing and allowing the prosecution to present the indictment. Prosecutor Vahan Manukyan demanded that the court find Gaspari guilty and subject him to an AMD 400 thousand (about $ 823) fine.

The court again went to the deliberation room to find out whether Gaspari wished to speak the last words. The defendant replied on the phone that he would return to the courtroom only with his lawyers, which the judge did not mind. The next hearing will be held at 4 pm on March 21.