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Witnesses and Police Trying to Link Sari Tagh Protesters With Sasna Tsrer Armed Group, Lawyer Says

The clash between police officers and residents of Yerevan’s Sari Tagh neighborhood on July 19, 2016, was “purely domestic in nature” and unrelated to the armed takeover of the nearby Erebuni police station; during the latest court hearings of the case, however, some of the witnesses and affected officers have been attempting in their testimonies to link up the Sari Tagh men with the group that had seized the police station for the sole purpose of aggravating the situation of the accused, Liparit Simonyan, the lawyer defending 6 of the 10 Sari Tagh men accused of using force against law enforcement officers, stated in a Monday interview with Epress.am.

In July 2016, when the Sasna Tsrer (Daredevils of Sasun) took over the police patrol regiment in Yerevan’s Erebuni district, law enforcement officers blocked a section of the road leading to Sari Tagh; the authorities would also occasionally cut off basic services, such as electricity and water, in the entire district, which led to protests by local residents. A group of Sari Tagh men took to the street to demand that street was unblocked and subsequently clashed with police, which resulted in the arrest of 10 local men. If convicted, the men could face 5-10 years in prison.

Simonyan and the lawyers of the four other defendants have repeatedly spoken out about the problems with the pre-trial and court proceedings. The latest hearing on March 22, Simonyan told us today, was conducted “in a particularly disgraceful manner.”

“One of the witnesses sat right in the courtroom for about 25 minutes before his own testimony. The judge, however, couldn’t care less when we argued that the witness could no longer testified because he’s been sitting in the courtroom [and had a chance to hear the testimonies of other witnesses]. The judge announced he was going to question the witness anyway,” the lawyer said, adding that he was forced to file a motion and demand that the judge should recuse himself from the proceedings because “he has no clue how to conduct them properly.”

According to the lawyer, the witnesses and injured police officers keep repeating the same testimony “they have by now learned by heart.” “They mostly insist on their testimony given during the preliminary investigation: we did nothing; these men just came and hit us out of nowhere. There was, nevertheless, one striking difference between the officers’ preliminary and latest in-court testimonies: they claimed that the Sari Tagh men had voiced an intention to ‘go join the [Sasna Tsrer] guys.’ The officers had said no such thing either in their pre-trial or earlier in-court testimonies. They are making this up for the sole purpose of connecting the defendants’ actions with those of Sasna Tsrer, thereby aggravating their situation,” Simonyan insisted.