YEREVAN — A court in Yerevan held on Thursday the first, preliminary hearing in the trial of retired General Manvel Grigorian and his wife who are facing a string of criminal charges denied by him.

The hearing focused on defense lawyers’ fresh demands for Grigorian’s release from detention on health grounds. The court rejected them, backing prosecutors’ assertions that the ailing ex-general is receiving adequate treatment in a civilian clinic in Yerevan when he has been kept since February.

Unlike his wife Nazik Amirian, Grigorian did not attend the opening session of his trial. The presiding judge cited a letter from the Nairi Medical Center saying that the 62-year-old cannot leave the hospital yet.

One of Grigorian’s lawyers, Levon Baghdasarian, said his client must be freed because he is suffering from lung cancer and diabetes. A trial prosecutor, Vahe Dolmazian, insisted, however, that Grigorian recovered from cancer years ago.

Grigorian, who had served as deputy defense minister from 2000-2008, was arrested when security forces raided his properties in and around the town of Echmiadzin in June last year. They found many weapons, ammunition, medication and field rations for soldiers provided by the Armenian Defense Ministry.

They also discovered canned food and several vehicles donated by Armenians at one of Grigorian’s mansions. An official video of searches conducted there by the National Security Service (NSS) caused widespread shock and indignation in the country.

Grigorian was also charged with tax evasion and extortion in February. He denies all the accusations leveled against him.

Amirian, his wife, was indicted on some of these charges but not arrested. She too denies them.

Speaking to reporters in the courtroom, Amirian dismissed the scandalous NSS video as a political “show.” “A hero doesn’t crawl,” she said, alluding to her husband’s prominent role in the 1991-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh. “If they thought that he should crawl [before them] they had better crawl themselves.”

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