On September 27, a video was posted on the Internet showing two young men persecuting and questioning Anna Danibekyan, a judge of the Yerevan District Court. The latter is investigating the March 1 criminal case. The young supporters of second president Robert Kocharyan, who is accused in the March 1 case, were particularly interested in whether Danibekyan belongs to judges “crying under the walls”.
Police later issued a statement about a criminal case under Article 343 of the Criminal Code (contempt of court), and the Investigative Committee reported that the two young men involved in the video have been charged under Article 332 of the RA Criminal Code (interfering in any way with the activities of the court in order to impede the administration of justice).
According to the Investigation Committee’s spokesպեռսօն Naira Harutyunyan’s Facebook page, the court approved the investigator’s motion to arrest Narek Mutafyan and Sargis Ohanjanyan. It is worth reminding that Narek Mutafyan had previously been sentenced to 4 years in prison for smuggling drugs to Armenia.
This has been a topic of discussion for both the ruling party, the opposition and various public figures. Let’s look at the main theses and manipulations circulating on the Internet.
What difference does it make whether it is on the street or on Facebook?
Despite comments condemning the disrespectful attitude towards the judge, the opposite opinion can also be found on Facebook: for example, if the same questions were posted by young people on Facebook, would it also be considered a crime?
Here it is necessary to clearly distinguish between free speech and persecution concepts. The video clearly demonstrates that the judge was being persecuted, which is a crime under the Criminal Code.
Nikol Pashinyan is to blame
Also noteworthy is the position of Mutafyan and Ohanjanyan’s defender Alexander Kochubaev on the issue. The latter applied to the Shengavit Investigation Body to arrest Nikol Pashinyan. He substantiated his application as follows: “First of all, it should be stated that Anna Danibekyan did not act as a court judge at the time of the dispute, so there can be no talk of obstructing her activities. Afterwards, the boys reproduced the words of Nikol Pashinyan, a citizen of the Republic of Armenia, on the screaming and punching of judges. If the preliminary investigation body finds that calling the judges disgusting and stomping with a stick has impeded the administration of justice, then the citizen of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan should be charged as the boys reproduced the latter’s statements.”
It should be noted here that if Anna Danibekyan had not been a judge, there would have been no pressure on the judge. Thus, supporting the claim that she did not act as a judge is groundless.
In addition, the video clearly shows that Anna Danibekyan was going to court in Shengavit. That is to say, this incident hindered the performance of the judge’s duties.
As to the lawyer’s observation that the young men reproduced Nikol Pashinyan’s words and that Nikol Pashinyan should also be charged, this is a misleading and manipulative interpretation of the charge. Mutafyan and Ohanjanyan are accused of interfering with the court’s activity through persecution, and the parallels drawn by the lawyer are thus groundless.
Is Narek Mutafyan a political prisoner?
After the incident Robert Kocharyan’s supporters have flooded Facebook with allegations that Mutafyan and Ohanjanyan are “political prisoners”.
First of all, it is necessary to clarify what the term “political prisoner” means.
Since Armenia is a member of the Council of Europe and has thus undertaken serious human rights commitments, we will refer to the definition of the Council of Europe. Thus, a person is to be regarded as a ‘political prisoner’:
- if the detention has been imposed in violation of one of the fundamental guarantees set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols (ECHR), in particular freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly and association,
- if the detention has been imposed for purely political reasons without connection to any offence
- if, for political motives, the length of the detention or its conditions are clearly out of proportion to the offence the person has been found guilty of or is suspected of
- if, for political motives, he or she is detained in a discriminatory manner as compared to other persons; or,
- if the detention is the result of proceedings which were clearly unfair and this appears to be connected with political motives of the authorities.
A person is not to be regarded as a ‘political prisoner’ if he has committed:
- violent crime against persons, except where such crime is the result of necessary protection or of extreme necessity
- a hate crime against a person or a building or calling for violence on a national, ethnic, racial, religious or other ground.
The actions of Narek Mutafyan and Sargis Ohanjanyan do not fit into the definition of a political prisoner. These are actions accompanied by violence and grounded in hate related to court rulings in Kocharyan’s case.
A precedent or not?
The thesis that the case of Mutafyan and Ohanjanyan may become a precedent and that such article may later be applied to other persons is actively circulated on Facebook. Fip.am studied the Judicial Act Search System (Datalex.am) and found that judicial acts under Article 343 of the Criminal Code are quite a few in number.
Accordingly, it becomes clear that the practice of instituting criminal proceedings in respect of contempt of court and interference with the activities of the court in order to impede the administration of justice is in place and Anna Danibekyan’s case is by no means a precedent.