Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Corrupt Former Judge Voices Support For LTP

It seems that Levon Ter-Petrosian has attracted the support of former judge Pargev Ohanian. If you recall from my interview with Onnik, there is mention of corrupt practices by judge Ohaian which reads:

OK: Is this the problem, then? Is the law not functioning correctly or are sentences for trafficking simply too light?

AM: The law contains provisions to hand down heavy sentences to traffickers but the legal system is not functioning correctly. I was present at the trial of five traffickers in Armenia last August and as far as I am concerned, Judge Ohanian and the prosecutor failed to do their jobs properly. These individuals should have received sentences of at least ten years but when Gulnara Shahinian, an expert on trafficking, presented the judge with details of Armenia’s international obligations to prosecute those guilty of trafficking, he instead insisted on prosecuting them with old Soviet laws that carried lighter sentences of only two years.

Though I don't think LTP has a chance to win, if he does for some reason come back into power, you can be sure that the "justice" we will see is not the kind of justice we are in need of. If Ohanian is a reflection of the type of people LPT will surround himself with to fix our problems, then we can't expect too much change if LPT wins, nor will we see our problems go away.

Fired Judge Voices Support For Ter-Petrosian

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 12/25/2007
By Astghik Bedevian

A recently dismissed judge who was behind one of the most sensational acquittals in Armenia's history expressed support on Tuesday for Levon Ter-Petrosian and said he is ready to campaign for the former president's victory in the forthcoming presidential election.

Pargev Ohanian, who was controversially fired by President Robert Kocharian two months ago, said he believes Ter-Petrosian's return to power represents an opportunity to combat widespread `injustice' reigning in the country. `I sympathize with Levon Ter-Petrosian and forces supporting him,' he told RFE/RL in an interview.

Ohanian was relieved of his duties as district court judge in Yerevan on October 16 upon the recommendation of the Council of Justice, a presidentially appointed body overseeing Armenia's judicial system. The council recommended his ouster as a result of disciplinary action takenagainst him by the Judicial Department, another government-controlled body monitoring the work of Armenian courts. The department found serious violations of Armenian law in his handling of two dozen criminal
and civil cases.

The punitive action has been widely linked with Ohanian's July 16 decision to acquit and free the owner and a top executive of the Royal Armenia coffee packaging company who had been arrested on controversial fraud charges two years ago. The arrests came after they publicly alleged high-level corruption in the Armenian customs. Ohanian's ruling, which reportedly angered Kocharian, was a rare example of an Armenian
court defying the government and prosecutors.

Armenia's Court of Appeals overturned the acquittals on November 29, sentencing the Royal Armenia owner, Gagik Hakobian, and the company's deputy director, Aram Ghazarian, to six and two years in prison respectively. Both men insisted on their innocence and appealed to the higher Court of Cassation.

Ohanian would not say just how he can contribute to the Ter-Petrosian campaign. `Frankly speaking, I don't consider myself a politician,' he said. `I'm more of a fighter for justice.'

Ohanian denied that he decided to back the opposition presidential candidate because of having lost his job. `There has always been injustice and I have always felt sorry for it,' he said. `I think that my mission is to fight against injustice. At the risk of sounding indiscreet, I continue to consider myself a judge who constantly fights
against injustice.'

Ohanian's own track record was far from perfect in that regard, though. He was among those Armenian judges who sentenced in 2003 and 2004 hundreds of participants of opposition demonstrations to up to 15 days in prison. Local and international human rights groups strongly condemned the so-called administrative detentions, forcing the Armenian authorities to scrap the Soviet-era practice.

Ter-Petrosian, meanwhile, appealed to his loyalists on Tuesday not to bow to what he described as `psychological pressure, intimidation and threats' by the police. In a written statement, he said scores of them have been illegally summoned to police stations across the country and told to stop campaigning for him over the past two months.

Ter-Petrosian said they should show up for interrogation only if they receive written summonses from law-enforcement bodies. `In case of receiving summonses, photocopy them and send their copies to offices of our Movement,' he said. `If you like, you can consider this my first and, as yet, unofficial decree.'

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