COURT OF APPEAL MUST RESTORE JUSTICE

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06:59 pm | May 08, 2009

Politics

The International Federtion for Human Rights (FIDH), Human Rights
Centre (HRIDC) and Civil Society institute (CSI) have issued a joint
statement which runs:

Our organisations express their concern on the case of Mr. Vahagn
Chakhalyan, sentenced to a 10-year prison term at the conclusion of
a trial marred by irregularities, and who was subsequentlty brutally
beaten in prison in Tbilisi.

On April 7, 2009 the Akhaltsikhe district court in Georgia
sentenced Mr. Vahagn Chakhalyan, a local activist from the ethnic
Armenian-populated Javakheti region in the south of Georgia to 10 years
in prison. The court found Mr. Chakhalyan guilty of the following
counts: acquisition and possession of firearms and ammunition,
participation in mass riots, organisation of a group action disturbing
public order, resistance to the police or to another representative of
the authorities, and hooliganism. The court also condemned his father
Mr. Ruben Chakhalyan and his younger brother Mr. Armen Chakhalyan to
fines equivalent to 3,000 and 1,200 USD respectively. On April 16,
2009 Mr. Vahagn Chakhalyan was taken out of his cell in Tbilisi prison
No. 8 to be brutally beaten by prison officers.

Since his arrest in July 2008, the legal proceedings against
Mr. Chakhalyan have been marred by irregularities.

Mr. Chakhalyan was originally accused of illegal possession of
firearms. Despite his lawyer requests, no fingerprints were ever
collected on the weapons reportedly found in his house. Charges against
him for violating public order are a later addition, and relate to
protests that followed the October 2006 elections in Akhalkalaki.

Mr. Chakhalyan's trial only started on November 6, 2008, and hearings
were repeatedly postponed. All legal proceedings took place in
Akhaltsikhe district court, although the events that led to the
arrest of Mr. Chakhalyan, his father and younger brother took place
in Akhalkalaki, their place of residence.

For unknown reasons, the Ministry of Justice of Georgia rejected
Mr. Chakhalyan's request to be represented by the lawyer of his
choice. Considering that this decision violates the right of the
defense, the Ombudsman of Georgia officially requested the Minister of
Justice to permit the lawyer of his choice to defend Mr. Chakhalyan, to
no avail. According to his lawyers and his relatives, the translation
provided to Mr. Chakhalyan during his trial was incomplete and of
poor quality. The written records of the proceedings are therefore
likely to be flawed.

Our organisations conclude that the procedure against Mr. Chakhalyan
was carried out with blatant violations of national, regional and
international legal standards on the right to a fair trial. FIDH, HRIDC
and CSI intend to follow closely the appeal trial of Mr. Chakhalyan,
and call upon the Georgian authorities to guarantee him a thorough and
independent trial in appeal, in conformity with Georgia's obligations
under regional and international Human Rights law.