Friday, July 08, 2005

Evidence points to the Armenian Prosecutor General’s office involvement in trafficking of human beings

Today was the last day of trial for Lucine Hagopyan, the notorious pimp who has admitted to trafficking of girls to Dubai and forcing them into prostituting themselves.

The head of the “anti-trafficking” department of the Prosecutor General’s office presented his argument, which instead of presenting the evidence to put Lucine behind bars for the crimes she herself admitted to, he recommended that she be given 2 years probation, stating that according to the evidence they had, no other law (#132) does not apply and there is no reason to retry the case.

You can’t imagine how disappointed I was to hear the prosecutor’s defense for Lucine. It was as if Lucine was his client, rather than the criminal that she is.

It’s very clear. The evidence was presented and a 5-year-old could tell you that what was presented could only be interpreted as trafficking.

In the closing argument that Lucine’s defense attorney made, he himself stated that Lucine obtained the visas for the victims and housed them. He added that those girls had been to Dubai before and worked as prostitutes, yet all the evidence that was presented during the trial, there never was any such statements other than from Lucine that his statement was accurate.

What the reality is and why the trial went as it did was that Lucine Hagopyan even before being arrested, had come to Armenia after being called to settle her issues with the Prosecutor General himself. This was based on her own testimony during the trial.

The information we had right after Lucine arrived to Armenia was that she visited with the prosecutor’s office and paid a $150,000 bribe to clear her “debts.”

We had visited with Lucine when we were in Dubai, but had not written about her as we were waiting for her (as well as others) to step foot on Armenian soil to print her story so the authorities would have no choice but pick her up and press charges.

I of course was hoping that they would charge her with 132, which hands the punishment of up to 8 years for trafficking, but Edik was sure that they would let her off since she paid such a large sum of money.

Last years trial of mother pimp Nano and her gang at least put them behind bars for a few months, probably because for the 5 traffickers, they only paid $300,000 to the prosecutor’s office ($60,000 each).

So what does all this tell me? It tells me that the Armenian government who is led by Robert Kocharian is corrupt and the reason why today we have 2,000 girls in the UAE and about 5,000 girls in Turkey is that our leaders are all prostitutes and can be purchased to do whatever the highest bidder wants.

Though I was hoping that this time the prosecutor’s office would do the right thing, I’m glad they showed their true colors and did what they do best and that is to help criminals like themselves continue to commit crimes against our people.

I’m also glad that OSCE and the US Embassy had representatives to monitor the trial, as when the Armenian government claims that they are doing what they can do combat trafficking and to be removed from Tier 2 watch list, the Department of State can do the right thing and they kick us down to Tier 3 and cut our aid.

When the trial was over and those of us observing the trial were talking, I made a comment about the prosecutor that he didn’t work well and his anti-trafficking department was just for show. As I said this, the prosecutor left the courtroom with he head hanging low.

The trial was also covered by Gentron Television, which tonight during the 10:30 p.m. news, talked about the verdict and basically implied how the prosecutor’s office is not combating trafficking as they should.

So in the end what happened? Lucine was given a 2 year sentence for pimping, but due to her being a single mother with a mother who is "ill", she will only have to serve a sentence of 1 YEAR PROBATION. She walked out of the court a free person.

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