Attorney Hovik Arsenyan is currently representing several opposition figures being sought by law-enforcement officials.
Q - Mr. Arsenyan, just how many individuals are you representing?
A - 15 in all. 5 of them had been detained regarding the events in Talin on January 27th. The authorities had presented the case as one of “hooliganism”, which in fact isn’t true. It appears that their aim was something totally different. My clients stated that they had been pursued for political reasons and that they were in fact political prisoners.
Mkrtich Sapeyan was the organizer of the Talin rally. As\such he was responsible for ensuring the safety of the crowds and to see that order was maintained. Naturally, he would have been responsible for any dissident or slanderous comments made during the rally. Sadly, they characterized what took place as hooliganism. From a criminal justice viewpoint the article of the law to be cited should have been selected on the basis of the results of what transpired. Essentially, they had Article 118, that dealt with ‘assault and bodily harm’, in mind. But since that Article didn’t allow for imprisonment they artificially brought forth Article 258 Section 3 in order to secure the imprisonment of members of Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s campaign headquarters in Talin.
In addition to freedom fighter Mkrtich Sapeyan they imprisoned Zhora Sapeyan, who also fought for this country, and Tigran Baghdasaryan. Hayk Gevorgyan, a student was also arrested, as was Mkrtich’s teenaged son Antranik.
Q - How many of the 5 are still in jail?
Other than Tigran Baghdasaryan and Antranik Sapeyan, who were released, the others remain jailed. Their trail is scheduled for March 25th in the Aragadzodn Court. The machinations of the authorities were just the first phase of the intrigue. The second phase occurred on Election Day itself. Marzpetuni Ayvazyan, whom I’m defending, was a proxy of Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s. On February 19th he was taken into custody at the polling station and later arrested. The person who arrested him was an official of the State Tax Service’s Investigations Division. It turns out that the Tax Service had suspicions that an illegal commercial deal had taken place and that they wished to conduct an investigation. They had contacted the police to inform Ayvazyan that he should appear as requested. No one ever assumed that on the day Ayvazyan appeared that the investigator would prepare papers for his arrest. On Election Day they tried to coax Ayvazyan out of the polling station. When this failed they resorted to more drastic measures, without taking my client’s rights into account. A person cannot be jailed solely on the suspicion that an illegal business deal took place. And indeed, the Court of First Instance rejected the intercession of the Chief Prosecutor regarding the arrest of Ayvazyan. Within 48 hours the Chief Prosecutor’s Office had again petitioned the Court of Appeals which then sustained the intercession for his arrest. This despite the fact that my client had a stable social situation, a permanent residence, was the sole breadwinner of the family and cared for many young kids and pupils. Mr. Ayvazyan participated and was wounded in the Artsakh Liberation War, for which he received many commendations. Let’s put all this aside for the moment. Just picture that on March 14th the Tax Service official decided to open a new investigation. In other words, they’re still not clear exactly what laws Ayvazyan might have violated and to what degree?
The case of Shota Saghatelyan is also connected to the elections. It is alleged that he prevented the elections committee at the 34/06 polling station from normally carrying out its duties. In the indictment it is noted that Saghatelyan forced his way into the station and caused a ruckus for about ten minutes. This is the allegation even though Saghatelyan was an official proxy there. The proxy already on the scene had telephoned Saghatelyan to say that ballot stuffing was taking place. My client drove to the spot to see for himself. He demanded that the Committee Secretary formally register his observations but they weren’t. This is how he ‘interrupted’ the normal workings of the Committee. He is now being detained at the Nubarashen jail.
On February 24th a special detachment of the Organized Crime Division stopped Smbat Ayvazyan’s car and forcibly took him to the 6th Police Precinct. It is noted in the police records that he was picked up on the suspicion of carrying firearms and munitions. They searched Ayvazyan and found a “Markarov” type pistol on his person for which he had a permanent police license to carry. Even though the gun charge turned out to be false Armenian Public TV continued to air photos of that revolver. Why? Their aim was to create an atmosphere of fear and to discredit both the movement and Ayvazyan. More perplexing was the fact that on the morning of the 24th Ayvazyan was taken into custody and later that evening he was transferred to the Central Police Station. He was taken there in handcuffs by three officers on the pretext that they suspected Ayvazyan of using drugs and that they needed to take some forensic samples. The police then concocted a story that Ayvazyan resisted and threatened the police in the car on the way back. The man had been illegally held for some 12 hours and the police were claiming that he resisted and wouldn’t submit to their legal demands. This was the absurd basis on which the police fabricated a criminal case against Ayvazyan who remains locked up in the Vardashen Prison.
The Investigations Unit of the Central Police is handling Smbat Ayvazyan’s case. However, when I visited Vardashen Prison to see him they showed my a document stating that on March 12th the Chief Prosecutor’s Special Investigative Agency had barred all visits and telephone conversations. But what was the role of the Special Agency in this affair given that it was reviewing the events of March 1st and 2nd? Ayvazyan had been taken into custody much earlier, on February 24th. Basically, the two cases were being illegally linked together. My fear that another travesty of the law was about to take place was well founded given that rather than the rule of law being observed it was the rule of political will and political whim that was primary. I couldn’t rule out the possibility that Smbat Ayvazyan, just like Suren Surenyan, would also be charged with violating Article 300 of the Criminal Code.
Surenyan, who had been arrested on February 26th, was charged with organizing illegal rallies on February 24th and the 25th and for making public calls of ‘struggle, struggle till the end’. He was charged with Article 225 of the Criminal Code and the court ruled in favor of detaining him even though the law in question doesn’t call for it. As\soon as his 20-day detention ended the Special Investigative Agency placed his case file within the criminal docket of the March 1st-2nd events and charged him with Articles 300 and 225. In essence, the authorities are claiming that even though Surenyan was in detention at the time he still seized government power, organized rallies and incited disorder. Such balderdash. Presently, Suren Surenyan is serving out a two-month sentence at Nubarashen prison.
There were arrests after March 1st as well
Right now I’m also defending Karapet Rubinyan, Alexandre Arzumanyan, Norayr Norikyan and Khachatur Simonyan. All have been charged with Article 300 Section 1 of the Criminal Code and Article 225 Sections 2 and 3. It is claimed that they usurped government authority and incited and organized mass public disorder. These are the charges despite the fact that their homes had been searched and nothing to substantiate those charges was found. They couldn’t even turn up any tangible evidence on which to arrest them.
What has happened is that lists of those to be arrested and the charges to be levied have been drawn up. These individuals are the ones with clear political viewpoints and principles, members of Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s campaign headquarters or his proxies. These are the true reasons for the political witch-hunts being pursued. These people have been taken into custody according to a premeditated plan of action on the pretext that they have violated this or that criminal code. All these individuals have done is to exercise their right to voice their political opinions, which is their constitutional right. Naturally, all of my clients have refused to offer any kind of testimony and have declared that the criminal charges against them are fabricated and that, indeed, they are essentially political prisoners.
Another particular manifestation of this entire farce involves Aleksan Vardanyan, a resident of the village of Ararat. For 50 years he had been a close neighbor of Vazgen Sargsyan and now he’s on good terms with Aram Sargsyan. The Ararat Regional Police took him into custody on March 2nd and on the evening of the following day they transferred him to the National Security Service’s Investigations Division. They arrested him on the basis of Article 300 and later charged him with Article 225, Section 2. Mr. Vardanyan is now incarcerated in the Nubarashen Prison.
The fact remains that Mr. Vardanyan was at home on the night of February 29th and the early morning of the next day, March 1st. He didn’t leave his house all that day. He gave evidence to the fact that he wasn’t in Yerevan at the time but as yet this hasn’t been looked into. Mr. Vardanyan suffers from diabetes and was recently released from the hospital after experiencing a stroke.
Another person I am defending is Gagik Hovhannisyan, the Deputy Director of the Vardashen Prison. The allegation is that in September of last year Mr. Hovhannisyan, along with two other prison officials, exercised physical force against a certain inmate. Amazingly, they are just getting around to arrest him for an incident that allegedly happened six months ago. They approached his father, General Hamlet Hovhannisyan, a person who has held the post of Deputy to the Chief of Internal Forces and an Administrative Director of the Police Force, with the following proposition - Publicly declare your support for Serzh Sargsyan’s nomination and we’ll let your son go. General Hovhannisyan stuck to his principles and refused the overture. As a result his son, Gagik, was arrested and is now locked-up in the Yerevan Central Prison. The other two Vardashen Prison officials who supposedly participated in the mistreating of the inmate are still at their old jobs.
These are just some examples of the conspiracies and plots that abound. As an attorney, I can state without reservation that we do not have courts or juridical justice and thus, neither do we have a working legal profession.