Armenia’s recently appointed Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian confirmed on Monday that one of his high-ranking subordinates will not be sacked despite reportedly violent conduct that led to the resignation of his predecessor Gevorg Danielian.
Danielian was unexpectedly fired on December 9 for what President Serzh Sarkisian’s office described as “inadequate performance of official duties.”
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian linked the move with a recent beating on a senior official at the Justice Ministry’s Service for the Mandatory Execution of Judicial Acts (SMEJA). The official was reportedly beaten up by Mihran Poghosian, the controversial head of the agency.
Sarkisian publicly berated Danielian for not promptly executing his order to take disciplinary action against Poghosian. He argued that violent behavior of senior state officials “directly undermines public trust” in the Armenian government.
Unlike Danielian, Poghosian was not relieved of his duties. Tovmasian made clear that the 34-year-old official has gotten off with a disciplinary sanction and will not lose his job.
“In a rule-of-law state, a person can not be twice held accountable for one deed,” the new justice minister told journalists. “As you know, the head of the SMEJA was subjected to disciplinary action. So he can’t be held accountable for the same deed for a second time.”
Poghosian joined the SMEJA in 2007 and became the head of the law-enforcement agency a year later. He is believed to have extensive business interests. One of the companies reputedly owned by him was accused by pro-opposition media of buying votes during the February 2008 presidential election.
Holding his first news conference in the new capacity, Tovmasian insisted that none of about a dozen opposition members remaining in prison was arrested and prosecuted after disputed vote for political reasons. “I don’t think so,” he said when asked whether there are political prisoners in Armenia.
Tovmasian, who is a former senior member of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, also said that he has ordered an inquiry into allegations that the most prominent of the jailed oppositionists, Nikol Pashinian, is no longer able to send articles of his “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily.
The newspaper staff say they have received no letters from Pashinian since he was transferred to another prison in late November. They say the Armenian authorities have severely restricted his communication with the outside world.