Former Artsakh Defense Minister’s Criminal Charges Reduced

YEREVAN (A.W.)— Armenian law enforcement authorities have reduced the criminal charges against former Artsakh Defense Minister and Army Commander Samvel Babayan, who was arrested in March.

Samvel Babayan (Photo: Photolure)

On June 20, Babayan’s lawyer Avetis Kalashyan revealed that he no longer stands accused of smuggling weapons into Armenia and is now accused of illegal arms “circulation” and money laundering.

According to an RFE/RL Armenian service report, Babayan could face up to 11 years in prison if found guilty of the revised charges. The initial criminal case against him carried up to 13 years imprisonment.

The former Defense Minister was arrested on March 21 after Armenian’s National Security Service (NSS) claimed to have confiscated a Russian-made surface-to-air rocket system. The NSS alleged that Babayan paid two other men to smuggle the shoulder-fire Igla systems from Georgia.

Babayan’s lawyer added that the trial is expected to begin soon, since the criminal investigation into the case has been completed.

In addition, Babayan’s longtime friend and Artskah War veteran Sanasar Gabrielyan, a second suspect charged in this case, also had his charges reduced.

Gabrielyan’s lawyer Karapet Aghajanyan stated that Gabrielyan is charged with the illegal acquisition, carrying, and transporting of weapons instead of being charged with smuggling weapons. Aghajanyan noted that Gabrielyan had intended to purchase the weapons for the Armed Forces of Armenia.

“He wanted to acquire weapons for the army by legal means,” said Aghajanyan. Aghajanyan added that his client was mislead during this process.

Babayan’s arrest was condemned by members of the opposition now defunct Ohanyan-Raffi-Oskanian (ORO) bloc—a political alliance that participated in the April 2 Armenian Parliamentary Elections. Babayan has been very critical of Armenia’s leadership and was thought to be very close with the leaders of ORO.

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