By Emil Danielyan
An embattled Armenian judge was sacked by President Robert Kocharian on Tuesday, a move which he described as a retaliation for his recent acquittal of two businessmen at loggerheads with the government.
Kocharian signed a decree relieving Pargev Ohanian, a judge of a district court in Yerevan, of his duties at the recommendation of the Council of Justice, a presidentially appointed body overseeing Armenia’s judicial system.
The council made the recommendation on Friday after considering disciplinary proceedings launched against Ohanian by the Judicial Department, another government-controlled body monitoring the work of Armenian courts. The department claimed that his handling of two dozen criminal and civil cases was accompanied by serious violations of Armenian law.
The punitive action is being 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 within the Armenian customs. In a rare example of an Armenian court defying the government and prosecutors, Ohanian dismissed the charges brought against them as baseless.
Ohanian believes that this is the reason why he lost his job. Commenting on Kocharian’s decree, he said the violations allegedly committed by him were too “negligible” to warrant his sacking. “That gives me reason to claim that I am being persecuted for my [July] verdict,” he told RFE/RL.
Ohanian also claimed that the alleged persecution will not necessarily be confined to his dismissal. “Everything can be expected,” he said.
The Armenian authorities deny any connection between the businessmen’s acquittal and Ohanian’s ouster, arguing that none of his alleged violations relates to the Royal Armenia case. Still, former Justice Minister David Harutiunian expressed concern last week at the timing of the disciplinary action, saying that it “at least gives the impression of a political link.”
(RFE/RL photo: Pargev Ohanian.)