Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, the lawyers representing the Yerevan-based law firm G-Partners cited specific passages from an article that appeared in the “Hraparak” daily on February 12.
The article discussed Kocharian’s spat with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia. It referred to the ex-president as a “blood-thirsty” individual who is also notorious for his “particularly brilliant foolishness.” The author also questioned his “human ability to think.”
“These are quite unethical and inappropriate claims,” said Arpine Melikbekian, one of G-Partners attorneys. She said such public characterizations not only violate Armenian law but also the European Convention on Human Rights.
Melikbekian added that she and her colleagues will present more detailed arguments during court hearings on the libel suit which are scheduled to start on May 10. Kocharian is seeking 6 million drams ($16,200) in damages.
He has also demanded last month that “Hraparak” assets be frozen pending a court verdict on the case. A Yerevan court granted the petition last week.
Sargis Grigorian, another Kocharian lawyer, defended the court injunction. He claimed that “Hraparak” broke a pledge to retract its disparaging statements on the ex-president.
But the “Hraparak” editor, Armine Ohanian, denied that, saying that the plaintiff’s representatives never clarified in writing which sentences in the controversial article should be refuted. “I just didn’t know what retraction text would satisfy their demands,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “We asked them to send a text but they never did that.”
Ohanian condemned the lawsuit and accused Kocharian of “declaring a war on the print media” on Monday. She pointed to similar legal action that has been taken by Kocharian and his family members against two other newspapers in recent months.
Grigorian dismissed suggestions that the spate of libel suits could actually damage Kocharian’s reputation. “Defense and restoration of rights are a supreme value,” he said. “No statistics, no evaluation of image and public relations implications has anything to do with that.”