Ashot Melikyan, the Chairman of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, condemns Kotayk Regional Police Department chief Arsen Arzumanyan’s acquittal verdict, who has harassed reporter Tirayr Muradyan and hindered his journalistic activities.

As we have already informed, yesterday, Arsen Arzumanyan, the head of the Kotayk Regional Police Department, who had violated journalist Tirayr Muradyan and hindered his professional activities, was justified by the verdict of Hovhannes Avagyan of the Kotayk regional Court of Common Jurisdiction.

Arsen Arzumanyan’s lawyer, Yervand Varosyan, has declared that the verdict means implementation of justice. “It is impossible not to evaluate positively the fact that in Armenia there are judges who are not subjected to pressure and are capable of administering justice under the letter of the law regardless of the fact that pressure [against it] was coming from “above” or from someone who shouts loudly to bring as much attention on himself as he can,” Varosyan wrote in his Facebook page with an unconcealed enthusiasm.

Journalist Tirayr Muradyan’s lawyer Grisha Balasanyan stated: “To say that it was justice, purely innocent judicial act, is ridiculous, because facts speak about the opposite,” said Balasanyan.

According to the journalist’s lawyer, they will appeal the dispute in the Court of Appeals as soon as they receive it. “In our opinion, there was no basis to justify the Chief of Police. The facts are more than sound: Arsen Arzumanian was aware that he was removing a journalist from the premises, the journalist was wearing his batch visibly; in addition, Tirayr told him he was a journalist. Also, violence against a journalist was used while forcing him into the car. This is videotaped,” said Balasanyan. According to him, witness policemen, who participated in this “operation”, said in the court that they were following Arsen Arzumanyan’s order.

“I insist that the Chief of Police knew that Tirayr was a journalist and deliberately removed him from the premises. Why? Because at that moment, Tirayr Muradyan was taking their pictures, talked and commented on the live broadcast, and they did not like it and tried to get him out of the area,” said the lawyer.

As for the police chief’s lawyer’s assertion that Tirayr Muradyan did not conduct journalistic activity at the time, Muradyan pointed out that Tirayr had broadcast the material on his Facebook page. “A journalist can videotape the story with his phone, use his Facebook page and then post it on the website. This is journalistic activity. We will appeal to the Court of Appeal, and we hope this verdict will be overturned.”

Tirajir Muradyan also mentioned that, in the court, the judge said that he had worked with the Chief of Police Arsen Arzumanyan in the city of Abovyan, where they had partnership relations. “Besides, almost all policemen who testified in this case, who are subordinates to Arzumanyan, have been promoted during the trial. I suppose that they gave directed testimonies.”

The journalist hopes that at least Armenian journalists’ organizations will condemn this judicial act.

It should be reminded that Arsen Arzumanyan, a public official, using his official position, hindered journalistic professional legal activities of Tirayr Muradyan, a representative of the Union of Informed Citizens NGO who was covering the course of the citizens’ gathering at the crossroads leading to the “Arinj Moll” on the Yerevan-Sevan highway.

He was charged with Article 164, part 2 of the Criminal Code of Armenia — a fine in the amount of 400 to 700 times of the minimum salary, or imprisonment for up to 3 years with deprivation of the right to hold certain positions or to engage in certain activities for a maximum term of three years or without it.

The prosecutor demanded a fine of 700,000 drams, but the police chief perhaps was more worried that the conviction would later make continuation of his “impeccable” work in the police forces impossible.

Marine Kharatyan

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