The European Court of Human Rights has thrown out an appeal from an Armenian scholar and former diplomat serving a ten-year prison sentence given to him for alleged espionage in favor of Turkey, it emerged on Friday.
Murad Bojolian, now 59, was arrested and charged with passing “military, economic and political information” on to Turkish intelligence in January 2002. He was tried and convicted of high treason less than a year later.
Bojolian initially admitted to working for the Turkish intelligence service MIT, but later retracted the pre-trial testimony and pleaded not guilty to the charges. The former head of the Turkey desk at the Armenian Foreign Ministry claimed during his two-month trial that he fabricated the confession because he feared torture and wanted to ensure the safety of his wife and three children.
Bojolian, who made occasional freelance contributions to Turkish media after leaving the government in the late 1990s, lodged an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in 2003, saying that he was jailed for his journalistic activities and never had access to state secrets. He said the ten-year sentence which he received in December 2002 violated an article of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantees freedom of expression.
According to his lawyer, Arayik Ghazarian, the Strasbourg-based court refused to even take up the case and hand down a ruling on the case on the grounds that any cooperation with foreign intelligences constitutes espionage even if it does not involve state secrets. Ghazarian told RFE/RL that the decision was made on November 3 and communicated to him and the Bojolian family on Friday.
Bojolian’s daughter, Alina, criticized it as unfair. “It was never proved in the court or anywhere else that Murad Bojolian cooperated with the intelligence services of any country,” she told RFE/RL.
“We haven’t decided yet what to do, but we will continue our struggle,” she said. “We will do everything to achieve justice.”
In his initial pre-trial testimony, Bojolian, who was born and grew up in Turkey, claimed to have passed a broad range of information about Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh on to Turkish intelligence agents in exchange for money. The testimony contained detailed accounts of his alleged contacts with MIT during six different trips to Istanbul between 2000 and 2001.
Although the defendant retracted the “false confession” during his trial, Armenian courts found it credible. One of the trial prosecutors said that its detailed descriptions “complement each other in a logical manner.” and “could not have been fabricated even with the best imagination.” The defendant and his lawyers, for their part, insisted that Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) failed to come up with any other purported evidence of his crime.
In a lengthy speech delivered during his 2002 trial, Bojolian said that he played a pivotal role in establishing direct communication between the governments of Turkey and newly independent Armenia in the fall of 1992. He said that made him the object of envy and jealousy of his Foreign Ministry superiors whom he accused of spreading rumors in 1992 and 1993 about his links with Turkish intelligence.
He said then Foreign Minister Vahan Papazian, a key member of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s administration, told him to resign or risk criminal proceedings. Papazian denied that, however, telling RFE/RL in October 2002 that he fired Bojolian because the latter was combining diplomatic work with retail trade in Turkish goods.
After leaving the Foreign Ministry Bojolian worked as a part-time translator and specialist on Turkey in Ter-Petrosian’s staff. His name is currently on the list of about two dozen jailed individuals whom Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress regards as political prisoners.