Court Hears Investigative Journalists Freedom of Information Case Against Prosecutor General Office
At today’s court session regarding The Investigative Journalists (IJ) NGO Freedom of Information suit to oblige the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to provide information in the case of Soghomon Kocharyan, who has served 20 years of a life sentence in an Armenian prison, Judge Lianna Hakobyan asked the PGO’s attorney why his client hadn’t responded to the IJ’s request on two occasions.
The PGO attorney responded that another department was dealing with the matter and that he had no information regarding the failure to respond.
The current legal suit dates back to November of 2014, when Hetq (founded by the IJ) wrote to the Prosecutor General’s Office asking that it be permitted to familiarize itself with various court documents of the 1995 trial of Kocharyan and to take photographs. The office never got back to Hetq. In March of this year Hetq again wrote to the office. There was no answer to this request as well.
IJ’s lawyer, Grisha Balasanyan, noted that he had received the official written response of the GPO regarding the suit stating that providing such information would violate the right of personal inviolability of third parties.
Balasanyan then went on to describe the petition sent by Soghomon Kocharyan, who has spent the last twenty years in prison, and that he wasn’t opposed to others familiarizing themselves with the case materials and to have them published.
Balasanyan also presented a letter received from the RA Judicial Department according to which the department head gave permission for archival material regarding the Kocharyan case to be photographed.
Judge Hakobyan said there was a conflict between the right to receive information and personal inviolability, and that it was necessary to ascertain the reason for obtaining the information.
Balasanyan responded that Kocharyan claims that he was wrongly accused and that the IJ, by nature, is an investigative body and that it might shed light on aspects of the case that could lead to a new trial.
The GPO’s attorney argued that the IJ was merely seeking access to the information as an ‘end to itself’.
Judge Hakobyan replied that even if this was the case, it was no grounds for denying access to the material.
“You have shown a general lack of action,” the judge told the GPO’s attorney, who then motioned that the suit be dropped.
The trial will resume on September 22.
Photo: Armenia's Prosecutor General Gevorg Kostanyan