Karen Khechoyan, a resident of the village of Arjut in Armenia’s Lori province, was found guilty by Lori district court judge Lusine Abgaryan on January 22 of physically abusing his wife and his daughter and fined AMD 150 thousand (about $300). The verdict was subsequently branded as “unfair” and appealed by the aggrieved party.
At the Court of Appeal on March 22, the defendant demanded that the appeal hearing be held behind closed doors; in addition, Khechoyan asked the judge to provide him with a public defender.
“I had said before that I’d represent my own interests; however, because of these here (pointing at reporters covering the hearing), I demand a closed trial since [the case] only concerns my family. I’m everywhere; Yandex, Google… They've disgraced my family! I don’t know the law well enough, so I want a public defender to get the matter of closed court settled,” Khechoyan said.
Judge Papoyan granted the motion to assign the accused a public defender and adjourned the hearing until the lawyer’s appointment. The motion for a closed court will also be discussed at the next hearing.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the adjournment, plaintiff Lusine Ghabuzyan's lawyer, Nona Galstyan, said that conducting the appeal hearing behind closed doors could be problematic for future similar cases. “The tendency to hear domestic violence cases behind closed doors could have a negative impact on the investigation of such cases. Both from the perspective of an objective investigation and of public awareness. Coverage of these cases enables the public to realize that domestic violence should also be punished. In this case, there is no reason for a closed court,” the lawyer stated.
Galstyan also spoke of the justifications for challenging the verdict at the Appeal Court; “We find the sentence issued by the first instance court disproportionate. The court did not take into account the fact that the husband beat his wife under the influence of alcohol. This, along with [the accused] subjecting his wife to sexual and psychological abuse, is an aggravating circumstance that should have been taken into consideration by the court. We demand that [Khechoyan] be imprisoned, because the abuser should realize [the seriousness] of what he did [to his wife]. Whereas, he behaves as though he has done nothing wrong.”