STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–The criminal case against the former commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh army–General Samvel Babayan–was not formally submitted to court on Monday despite an earlier official announcement to that effect–officials said. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Stepanakert told RFE/RL that Karabakh prosecutors "are still working on the text of the indictment" and that it is "not clear" when it will be ready.
The spokesman also said that the trial of Babayan and 15 other persons on charges of masterminding and carrying out the March 22 armed assault on the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic–Arkady Ghukasian–will likely start "ten to twelve days" after the case is received by a Stepanakert court. Babayan and his supporters deny the charges–saying that they are part of the Karabakh authorities’ efforts to suppress dissent after the ex-commander’s ouster from government late last year. The general has claimed that he has been mistreated in pre-trial detention–while his lawyers have complained about serious hurdles to their work. The authorities have consistently denied the allegations–and have pledged that the most high-profile trial in Karabakh’s history will be open and fair. Meanwhile–leaders of the nationalist Right and Accord bloc–Babayan’s main support base in Armenia–discussed with lawyers on Monday their defense strategy at the upcoming court proceedings. The meeting was held behind the closed doors.
In a related development–the Karabakh authorities postponed by two months the implementation of last week’s court ruling ordering the sister of once the most powerful man of the enclave to vacate her Stepanakert apartment. The court ruled that Anush Babayan purchased the apartment ten years ago by illegal means. Babayan’s sister has in response solicited political asylum from Western embassies in Yerevan–protesting what she sees as continuing "political repression" against her family.