Judicial Body Ends Hearings on Defiant Judge

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Council of Justice overseeing Armenia’s courts and appointed by the president wrapped up Thursday two-day hearings on punitive action sought by another judicial body against a judge who was responsible for one of the most sensational acquittals in the country’s history.
The government-controlled Judicial Department instituted disciplinary proceedings against Pargev Ohanian, a judge of a district court in Yerevan, on September 4, less than two months after he acquitted two businessmen controversially prosecuted by the Armenian authorities. The move, which could result in Ohanian’s dismissal, is seen by many as a retaliation for a rare court defeat suffered by law-enforcement bodies and the National Security Service (NSS) in particular.
The Judicial Department claimed that Ohanian committed serious violations of Armenian law while adjudicating on two dozen criminal and civil cases. The Council of Justice’s Disciplinary Commission backed the allegations and detailed them at the start of the public hearings on Wednesday. Most of the alleged violations relate to what the Judicial Department regards as wrong verdicts handed down by Ohanian.
Neither the Judicial Department, nor the Disciplinary Commission specified just how Ohanian should be sanctioned. Under the Armenian constitution, the Council of Justice can go as far as to ask President Robert Kocharian to fire the judge. Hovannes Manukian, a senior judge who presided over the hearings, said the council will announce its decision on October 12.
The judicial bodies found no violations in the July 16 acquittal of Gagik Hakobian, the main owner of the Royal Armenia coffee packaging company, and one of its top executives, Aram Ghazarian. They were arrested and charged with fraud in October 2005 after publicly accusing senior customs officials of corruption. The NSS demanded that they be sentenced to at least ten years in prison.
However, Ohanian dismissed the accusations as baseless and ordered the immediate release of the two men. It was the first time that the Armenian successor to the former KGB lost a major court case.

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