Saturday, 22 September

Najarian's case is a test for Diaspora investors

As reported earlier, in December 9, 2004 the Court of First Instance of the Kentron and Nork Marash Communities of Yerevan partially satisfied the claim of US citizen George Najarian (See alsoGeneral Prosecutor's Office vs. Najarians). The Court ruled to continue the criminal investigation into the case and to involve George Najarian as the aggrieved party. The Republic of Armenia General Prosecutor 's Office opposes the decision of the Court, and filed an appeal to the Court of Review on Criminal and Military Cases in December 24, 2004. The General Prosecutor's Office required the court to abolish the decision of the Court of First Instance. That is, the General Prosecutor's Office believes there is no need to continue the criminal investigation into the case.

However, during the January 25, 2005 hearing of the appeal, Presiding Judge A. Poghosyan suggested inviting Grigor Igityan to court and hearing his statements. This was the judge's own initiative, since no such motion had been made either by the General Prosecutor's or Najarians' representatives. As the judge ruled to postpone the hearing in order to call Grigor Igityan into court, Igityan, rising from his seat, stated that he was present. The judge appeared confused for a moment, then confirmed the postponement.

During the next hearing on February 10, 2005, Najarian's representatives Ashot Poghosyan and Hrair Ghoukassian made their motion; they found that the General Prosecutor's office "appeal shall be examined and resolved under the rules of the Chapter 39 of the Republic of Armenia Criminal Procedure Code (Judicial Control Over Pre - Trial Proceedings), and specifically, through the procedure provided under Article 290 of the Republic of Armenia Criminal Procedure Code."

That procedure excludes the participation, let alone hearing the statements, of parties having or not having connection with the criminal case other than the claimant and the body conducting the proceedings.

Najarian's representatives stated that Grigor Igityan should not testify in court, nor should he provide answers to questions, since Igityan had no status and it was unknown under which status the court was supposed to question him. The motion stated: "Grigor Igityan has nothing to do with the decision to dismiss the criminal proceedings into the case, nor has he has anything to do with the Court Decision binding upon the General Prosecutor's office abolishing the General Prosecutor's office decision on dismissing the case and involving George Najarian as an aggrieved party, nor with the Appeal at issue in this Court. The Court has no legal basis necessary for hearing Grigor Igityan at this time, while doing so the Court would exceed the scope of its authorities provided under the Republic of Armenia Criminal Procedure Code , and would violate Article 5 of the Republic of Armenia Constitution ."

Article 5 of the Republic of Armenia Constitution states: "State power shall be exercised in accordance with the Constitution and the laws based on the principle of the separation of the legislative, executive and judicial powers. State bodies and public officials may execute only such acts as authorized by legislation."

Najarian's representatives mediated "not to hear the statements of Grigor Igityan, who has no status in the case, and not to involve him as a party in the case of hearing and resolving the Appeal in the Procedure of Judicial Control Over Pre-Trial Proceedings."

The judges were visibly caught off guard by the motion; Najarian's representatives had apparently thrown a wrench into the works. The judges discussed the situation among themselves for a few minutes and finally decided to postpone the hearings again. It is not known at this time what they are going to do, while the reasons for inviting Igityan, a non-party to the trial, to court can only be guessed at-to divert the flow of the trial and reach a decision which would match the investigators' decision, i.e., it's a civil dispute to be transferred to an appropriate venue.

The public scrutiny under which this case has taken place will not permit the issuance of an awkward decision that satisfies the General Prosecutor's office. As per our knowledge, US senators, one congressman, and hundreds of Diaspora Armenians have sent letters of complaint to President Robert Kocharyan, Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian, Justice Minister David Harutunyan, Chief Prosecutor Aghvan Vartanyan, and Parliament Speaker Arthur Baghdasaryan.

"This is a test for many Diaspora Armenians who decided to make investments in Armenia ," said one Diaspora Armenian attending the court proceedings. Though he asked us not to mention his name, he promised to talk about the case after the trial is over.

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