Trial Gets Underway in Hetq's Freedom of Info Suits Against Police and General Prosecutor
Two ‘freedom of information’ suits filed by the Investigative Journalists (IJ) NGO, one against the General Prosecutor’s Office and the other, the police, began yesterday at Armenia’s Administrative Court.
While the police had originally rejected the IJ’s demand for the number of complaints filed against two individuals (Varuzhan Margaryan and Naira Asatryan) in the last five years for usury, it seemed that the police might be willing to supply the information.
The police had argued that by supplying such information it would violate Article 8 of the Freedom of Information Law; namely the secrecy of a person and/or family.
At yesterday’s court session, police rep Artur Pivazyan still opposed the demand but confessed that information as to whether criminal charges had been filed against someone or not did not violate ones right to personal inviolability.
When asked by presiding Judge Lianna Hakobyan if the two sides might be ready to reconcile, Pivazyan answered in the affirmative and IJ attorney Grisha Balasanyan did not express any opposition. The police will state their final decision in a few days.
The other suit, against the General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO), dates back to November of 2014, when Hetq (founded by the IJ) wrote to the GPO asking that it be permitted to familiarize itself with various court documents of the 1995 trial of Soghomon 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.
At a July 2015 court session on the matter, 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.
At yesterday’s court session GPO representative stated that there was a basis to reject the freedom of information request and that Hetq had abused its right as a media outlet by contacting the GPO a second time after not receiving any answer to its original inquiry.
Judge Hakobyan responded that the court had addressed the matter in July by declaring that it would hear the case.
Yesterday, when Judge Hakobyan again asked the GPO rep Maneh Galoustyan why they hadn’t responded to Hetq’s two inquires, Galoustyan responded that he had answered the question at the previous court session in July.
(At the previous session PGO attorney Galoustyan responded he had been dealing with other GPO matters and that he had no information regarding the failure to respond.)
The court reviewed evidence in both cases and scheduled the next session for October 1.