By Karine Kalantarian
A court in Yerevan on Friday upheld the legality of former President Robert Kocharian’s decision to sack a deputy prosecutor-general who openly denounced Armenia’s recent presidential election as fraudulent and voiced support for opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian.
Gagik Jahangirian was sacked and arrested on February 23, the day after delivering a fiery anti-government speech at an opposition rally in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. Jahangirian and his brother Vartan were ambushed by a special police unit as they left the capital in a car.
Both men were charged with resisting law-enforcement officers. Vartan Jahangirian, who was shot and wounded during the arrest, was subsequently released from jail pending trial. His prominent brother, who had previously served as Armenia’s chief military prosecutor, remains in pre-trial custody.
In a recent lawsuit filed to Armenia’s Administrative Court, Gagik Jahangirian, said that Kocharian’s decree, which also stripped him of his rank of First-Class State Justice Counsel, is illegal and must be overturned. He claimed that his sacking did not follow the procedure stipulated by an Armenian law regulating the work of state prosecutors. He also argued that Article 58 of Armenia’s constitution gives the president of the republic only the right to award such titles to senior law-enforcement and judicial officials and says nothing about their revocation.
The court dismissed the suit, citing another clause in the law in question that bans prosecutors from joining political parties and engaging in other political activities.
Speaking at a court hearing on Friday, Jahangirian insisted that he simply exercised his constitutional right to freely “express my views.” “Why did Jahangirian go to Liberty Square and give a speech at a rally organized by Levon Ter-Petrosian? Because there is a lack of justice in this country,” he said.
“I saw that nobody is fighting for the wretched, the mistreated, the victim,” added the man who himself faced allegations of torture and crime cover-up from human rights groups during his tenure.
Similar arguments were made in the Administrative Court by four former employees of the Armenian Foreign Ministry who were fired for condemning the government’s conduct of the February 19 vote. The court refused to reinstate them, saying that their public statement on the election “amounted to political activity because it is directed at issues relating to political processes.”
The court on Friday also ruled that the constitution does allow the president to revoke ranks given state officials. It claimed that “in this case the term ‘to award’ carries a prerogative to both give and revoke a title.”
“The decision is so unlawful that one can not even evaluate it from the legal standpoint,” Jahangirian’s lawyer, Lusine Sahakian, told RFE/RL. She said her client, who was not brought to the courtroom on Friday, plans appeal to the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting all possibilities of legal action in Armenia.