By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian has completed the controversial replacement of the judge behind one of the most sensational court rulings in Armenia’s history by another jurist.
Pargev Ohanian, a district court judge in Yerevan, was dismissed by Kocharian on October 16 in a move widely linked with his surprise acquittal of two businessmen locked in a bitter dispute with the Armenian government. The owner and a top executive of the Royal Armenia coffee company had been arrested in October 2005 and charged with fraud after publicly accusing senior customs officials of corruption.
The July 16 ruling was apparently the first court defeat ever suffered by the National Security Service (NSS), the Armenian successor to the Soviet KGB which handled the criminal case. The acquittal was followed by the launch of disciplinary action against Ohanian by the government’s Judicial Department.
The department alleged that Ohanian broke Armenian law while adjudicating two dozen other court cases. The Council of Justice, a presidentially appointed body overseeing the Armenian judiciary, backed the allegations and asked Kocharian to fire the judge. Its members deny any connection between the move and the Royal Armenia affair.
Kocharian signed a decree last week appointing Arshak Petrosian, a lawyer nominated by the Council of Justice, in Ohanian’s place. Petrosian took an oath of allegiance to Armenia’s constitution and laws in Kocharian’s presence on Wednesday. The ceremony held in the presidential palace in Yerevan was also attended by the chairman of Court of Cassation, the country’s highest body of criminal justice. Petrosian pledged to be “impartial and principled, fair and humane.”
Also sworn in was another newly appointed judge, Arsen Babayan. Incidentally, Babayan is married to the head of Kocharian’s press service, Hasmik Petrosian.
(Presidential press service photo)