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Witness Testifies to Hearing Police Officers Use Profanities During Brawl with Opposition Activists

Mnatsakan Martirosyan, the judge presiding over opposition activist Gevorg Safaryan’s trial, refused on Tuesday yet another motion filed by the oppositionist’s lawyer, Tigran Hayrapetyan, to release Safaryan from custody and impose an alternative restraint measure.

Safaryan has been behind bars for nearly ten months; he was arrested on New Year's Eve after a scuffle with law enforcement officers on Yerevan’s Freedom Square and was subsequently charged with assaulting police officer Gegham Khachatryan. The oppositionist, however, denies the charge, claiming that it was he who was attacked by the law enforcement officer.

Lawyer Hayrapetyan backed his motion by insisting that the video footage submitted to the court by the prosecution did not give visual evidence of Safaryan having actually hit officer Khachatryan, while the in-court testimonies from Khachatryan’s colleagues, he added, “were contradictory and inconsistent.” Prosecutor Vahe Dolmazyan, for his part, argued that the defense had failed to present any sufficient arguments in the motion and that it should therefore be rejected. The judge finally sided with the prosecutor, after taking a 1.5-hour break to deliberate on the motion.

Moving on, the court heard witness Albert Vardanyan’s testimony, an employee of an underground parking garage not far from the Freedom Square. On New Year’s Eve, the witness said, he heard shouts and curses and left the garage to find out where the noise was coming from. “As I approached the Opera building, I saw that there were people in police uniform among those arguing and decided to go back to the garage,” Vardanyan stated, adding that he recalled both sides exchanging profanities and insults. At some point, the witness went on, his colleagues who had been closer to the argument tried to tell him the details of the incident but he stopped them because he did not want to ruin his holiday.

Prosecutor Dolmazyan then claimed that Vardanyan’s in-court testimony varied from the one he had given during deposition and asked the court’s permission to read it out loud. According to the transcript, Vardanyan had heard from his colleagues that “a young man in white trousers and a blue shirt hit a police officer.” Additionally, during deposition the witness insisted that he had only heard curses and insults addressed to law enforcement officers.

When asked about the contradictions in his statements, Vardanyan argued that “it was a long time ago” and that he could not be expected to remember every detail of the incident.