Rare Victory for Defendants: Court rules “not guilty” in Mataghis case

Rare Victory for Defendants: Court rules “not guilty” in Mataghis case


A protest action was staged regarding the Mataghis case in front of the RA Presidential Residence on December 12

In a ruling that is virtually unprecedented for such cases, the General Jurisdiction Court of Shirak province Tuesday brought in a “not-guilty” verdict in the controversial Mataghis case of the three soldiers accused of involuntary manslaughter of two comrades in 2003.

It was in fact a second trial, as the soldiers had been convicted of murder, before the verdict was overturned by a high court.

This is an unexpected settlement in independent Armenia’s judicial practice. The nine-year-long scandalous case of three young conscripts finally closed Tuesday. Razmik Sargsyan, Arayik Zalyan and Musa Serobyan, all aged 27, were interrogated and tortured, spent three years in prison, resorted to a 120-day hunger strike to attract public attention to their case, and now have finally been released.

“The truth is that the court had no alternative, for the lack of any evidence proving their guilt. This is a victory of justice, a rare thing in our country, but, as it appears, not an impossible one,” attorney Hayk Alumyan said.
Gyumri-based GALA TV reports that after the not-guilty verdict was brought in the courtroom exploded with applause and cheers, exclamations of joy and excitement, tears of happiness that even men did not hide.

The young men had been defendants since 2003 with charges of murdering fellow conscripts Roman Yeghiazaryan and Hovsep Mkrtumyan at Mataghis military unit in Nagorno Karabakh. In 2004, the first instance court sentenced them to 15 years of prison. The court of appeals, however, made it life sentences. In 2006, by coincidence again in December, the court of cassations released the convicts and returned the case for further investigation for lack of sufficient evidence.

Even the parents of the victims believed in the innocence of the young men, and it was Mkrtumyan’s mother who had turned to the high court.

The probe into the case started when now oppositional Armenian National Congress member Gagik Jhangiryan was the military prosecutor; he was accused of covering up the real culprits and framing the three conscripts.

Even in a recent interview Jhangiryan claimed that he was certain the investigation had rightfully identified those three as the real wrongdoers, but the court has proved the opposite.

It cannot be ruled out that the court decision has political subtext, bringing to surface oppositional MP Jhangiryan’s mistakes and striking a blow at his reputation.

“Can’t be sure of the reasons, but, regardless, this was the just thing to do and the only right decision,” says attorney Alumyan.