YEREVAN — The prosecutor in the trial of former separatist Nagorno-Karabakh military commander Samvel Babayan has urged an Armenian court to convict the retired army general of arms smuggling and money laundering.
In his indictment speech on November 13, prosecutor Aram Aramian claimed that the evidence presented at trial proved Babayan’s guilt on both counts. He asked the court to sentence Babayan to seven years in prison.
Babayan was the top commander of ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh from 1993 to 1999.
Armenian-backed separatists seized the mainly Armenian-populated region from Azerbaijan during a war that killed some 30,000 people; intermittent fighting has continued since a 1994 cease-fire and diplomatic efforts to resolve the territorial dispute have brought little progress.
Babayan was arrested in March of this year after the National Security Service claimed to have confiscated a surface-to-air Igla missile system and that Babayan was allegedly behind its acquisition.
The arrest came about two weeks before parliamentary elections in which Babayan voiced support for an opposition alliance led by former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and two former foreign ministers.
The alliance, known by the acronym ORO, contends that the criminal case is politically motivated.
Babayan, his associate Sanasar Gabrielian, and five other men went on trial in July. The once-powerful general has repeatedly denied prosecutors’ claims that he promised to pay other suspects $50,000 for the delivery of the weapon.
Babayan, 52, was arrested previously in 2000 and sentenced to 14 years in prison after being convicted of masterminding a botched attempt on the life of the president in Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist government.
After his early release in 2004, Babayan relocated to Yerevan, where he set up a political party that fared poorly in the 2007 parliamentary elections, and then emigrated to Russia in 2011.
He returned to Armenia in May 2016, citing what he said was the increased risk of renewed war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh and the neighboring regions that the separatists control.