The Special Investigation Service of Armenia for the second time has rejected opening a criminal case for impeding the work of Marineh Khachatrian, correspondent of “A1+” TV company, on part of Karen Hayrapetian, Chief of Security Service of the RA National Assembly.
As we have reported, the incident occurred on September 9, at the main entrance of the National Assembly, where the “Counterblow” Art Group held an action. After noticing the “A1+” correspondent filming the scene, Karen Hayrapetian approached the journalist and hit her on the arm, knocking down her tablet. There were numerous witnesses to the incident, including journalists of Hetq.am. The very same day, Hetq.am published photo and video footage of the incident.
Upon the request of the RA Prosecutor’s Office all media coverage of the incident were forwarded to the Special Investigation Service (SIS). On September 22, SIS refused to initiate a case.
On September 29, seven Armenian media NGOs condemned decisions of the SIS on the cases related to impeding professional activities of journalists. “In fact, a vicious tradition is being set: after receiving reports on obstruction of journalists’ activities or usage of violence against them, the RA Prosecutor’s Office requests the SIS to investigate the incidents, but the latter glosses over the cases with a standard explanation ‘absence of corpus delicti’. And this happens even in the cases where the facts of violence and impeding had been filmed and published in the Internet and in numerous media outlets”, the statement of the NGOs read.
Journalistic organizations demanded the SIS administration to take measures to review the decisions and to hold responsible the investigators that did not show impartiality and professionalism. The media NGOs also called on the RA Prosecutor’s Office to exercise pertinent supervision over the activities of the SIS and to ensure a thorough investigation of each case of violence and impeding the professional activities of journalists.
On October 7, the Prosecutor General Gevorg Kostanian canceled the decision of the SIS and ordered to initiate a criminal case against Karen Hayrapetian under Clause 1 of Article 164 of RA Criminal Code (“Obstruction of legitimate professional activities of journalist”). The preliminary investigation was entrusted to the same Special Investigation Service (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, October 6-12, 2014).
However, SIS remained faithful to its previous decisions. On November 20, the investigative body refused to initiate a criminal case, since once again it could not find any corpus delicti in the actions of the head of the National Assembly’s Security Service.
On November 28, the RA Prosecutor’s Office stated that it canceled the SIS decision as the Service had “conducted a preliminary investigation with serious procedural violations”. Particularly, “A1+” correspondent was not recognized as a victim in spite of sufficient grounds, the Prosecutor’s Office statement stressed.
Thus, the RA Prosecutor’s Office, in turn, resubmitted the case to the Special Investigation Service. This time the prosecution requires the latter to recognize the journalist as a victim, to explain her rights and obligations under the RA Criminal Procedure Code, including “the right to call for another expert evidence in case of disagreement with the existing expert conclusion”.
One should note that the case has already set a kind of “precedent”: for the first time Prosecutor’s Office disagreed – twice – with the decision of the investigative body not to initiate a criminal case regarding the attack on journalist and obstructing his/her professional activities. Moreover, for the second time it has publicly pointed out serious errors in the course of the investigation and ordered to improve them.
Naturally, the question arises, why the Prosecutor’s Office has not done so from the very beginning, when it returned for the first time the case to SIS for another investigation? After all, Marineh Khachatrian was not recognized as a victim at any stage and, therefore, one can assume that the investigation in whole was initially conducted “with serious procedural violations”.
In other words, the “ball” is once again on the field of SIS and the near future will show what the outcome of this “match” will be.
P.S. On November 28, the RA Special Investigation Service celebrated seven years from the date it was established. In his congratulatory address, Armenian President Serzh Sargsian noted that SIS “mostly succeeded to implement its tasks, it has formed the staff of investigators, able to withstand the actual challenges, it hold high quality investigations of criminal cases, which fall under the mandate of the Service” (quoted from “ArmenPress” news agency).