Opposition figures on trial in Armenia .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - A former Armenian foreign minister and six other opposition figures went on trial in Yerevan on Friday on charges of seeking to overthrow the government during protests in March. Ten people died when protests against the results of presidential elections in the former Soviet republic turned violent.

Cries from supporters of "We are with you!" greeted the defendants as they entered a courtroom in the capital Yerevan where they will face charges of seeking to "usurp state power" when they organized mass protests in February.

The opposition said the trial of former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanian and his co-accused is politically motivated, and complained the government has done little to investigate allegations of police culpability. Rights groups and the Council of Europe voiced concern after the government imposed a state of emergency and arrested over 100 people after the protests. The opposition said the vote, won by Serge Sarkisian, was rigged.

Outside the courtroom, dozens of protesters chanted "Free political prisoners!" and held pictures of the seven accused, reported Agence France-Presse. Arzumanian, a foreign minister in the late 1990s, was campaign chief for opposition presidential challenger Levon Ter-Petrosian.

’False case’
"The case is sufficiently proven by the evidence of 500 witnesses, civilians as well as police officers," chief investigator Vahagn Harutyunian told Reuters. "We have records of telephone conversations, private video recordings and television footage, and public speeches by opposition representatives." Ter-Petrosian has not been officially charged with any connection to the unrest. Arzumanyan's lawyer said the case was "false".

"No one among those charged did anything to violate public order," Hovik Arsenyan told Reuters.

Armenia -- a mountainous country of about three million people wedged between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Turkey -- has seen repeated political violence and post-election protests since gaining independence with the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.