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 September 12, 2003 

Tigran Naghdalyan Murder Case: Prosecutor accuses attorney of having fake license

Expecting sensational defense testimony, the court instead heard sensational procedural debate.

The much-anticipated testimony of Felix Arustamyan, a defendant in the Tigran Naghdalyan murder trial, remains unheard after a week of procedural wrangling during which Arustamyan got a new attorney.

And in the previous week's session Arustamyan brought proceedings to a halt when he demanded that he be granted a non-state-appointed attorney. He further confused the proceedings when he requested the assistance of one of Armen Sargsyan's attorneys. (Sargsyan, the brother of slain Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan is accused of ordering Naghdalyan's murder for a fee of $75,000.)

When court returned on Tuesday (September 9) judge Saro Aramyan granted an application allowing Zaruhi Postanjyan of the International Union of Lawyers to represent Arustamyan. Postanjyan immediately asked for a recess to consult with her client.

When court resumed yesterday (September 11), the attorney asked for a two-week delay in order to study the seven-volume criminal case. The extension was denied, as was Arustamyan's request to also be represented by another attorney Liparit Simonyan, who had earlier been dismissed by defendant Grigor Petrosyan.

Much of yesterday's session was taken up in debate of a motion by prosecutor Zelim Tadevosyan, demanding that Sargsyan attorney Hovik Arsenyan be dismissed from the trial on grounds that he had illegally obtained a law license.

Tadevosyan cited a newspaper report stating that in 1997 Arsenyan was sentenced to four years in prison for exceeding his authority as a criminal investigator.

Tadevosyan argued that even though Arsenyan's prison sentence extended through 2001, he already had a law license in 1999. (It is against the law for an attorney to practice law while serving a sentence.)

The prosecutor further accused Arsenyan of having a "fake" license that had been granted because Arsenyan concealed his criminal past on his application.

Arsenyan insisted that his license is valid and that he is presently practicing with a license granted last year.

After stormy discussions the court made a decision to temporarily dismiss Arsenyan from the sessions while the issue is considered.

"Materials about me have always been in the Prosecutor's Office," Arsenyan said. "Starting from March when I was brought onto this case the Prosecutor's Office had already had materials about me. Why didn't they decide to dismiss me then?"

Arsenyan says the prosecutor is trying to cast a shadow on Sargsyan by bringing the issue before the court now.

"I resumed my legal activities when my sentence term had already been finished," says Arsenyan. "Of course I would never participate in such measures if I weren't sure or the Union of Lawyers wasn't sure enough of that. There are no grounds for dismissing me at all."

Asked why the Prosecutor's Office has revealed the fact of illegality only now, Tadevosyan said that Arsenyan hid the fact of him being sentenced and they have known about it only from Thursday's publication in the press.

"If a person hides his conviction it is possible that the Prosecutor's Office doesn't know about it," says the accusing prosecutor.

Court sessions are typically tense in the month-old trial. Aramyan very strictly warned that he would undertake serious measures in case defendants communicate with each other. And he warned the gallery that outbursts in the court room would result in administrative penalties.

The trial is expected to resume Tuesday.


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September 11, Yerevan. Commemorating the American tragedy, events at Moscow cinema hosted by the US embassy became a solemn tribute due to Armenian citizens -- officials, clergymen, simple people, children, who came to join their voices to the world's choir condemning terrorism.



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