Gagik Khachatryan, the former Armenian Finance Minister, and the former chair of the State Revenue Committee, has been in detention for a month already. He is accused of alleged abuse of official power and misuse of public funds. Khachatryan does not accept the charges against him. The following has been submitted by his team of lawyers, represented by Yerem Sargsyan.
1. There is not a shred of evidence that Gagik Khachatryan has committed the alleged crimes he has been accused of.
The court did not receive and did not examine any evidence whatsoever that would allow it to form a reasonable suspicion that the crime mentioned in the Armenian Criminal Code Article 179, paragraph 3(1) even occurred and that Gagik Khachatryan had anything to do with it. However, reasonable suspicion is a required ground for detention; therefore, the lack of such evidence is a clear ground for denying the motion to detain a person.
During the hearing, the defense motioned the court to specify in its decision on approving the detention motion, should such a decision be reached, the exact evidence supporting the probable cause that Gagik Khachatryan was the one who may have committed the alleged crimes. The court did not cite any evidence, because the materials of the case did not contain any such evidence, thus reaching an ungrounded, unreasoned and unlawful decision.
2. The court was unable to explain why it is deciding to detain Gagik Khachatryan.
The court was unable to show in its decision that, if let free, Gagik Khachatryan would abscond from justice, commit a new crime or interfere with the investigation. The RA Court of Cassation and the European Court of Human Rights have stated repeatedly in their case law that detention is the most severe of all the means of prevention used in a criminal case investigation. It is to be used only as a last resort, when all the other means of prevention cannot ensure the person’s proper conduct during the course of an investigation.
In this regard, it is interesting that as far back as on March 13, 2019 Gagik Khachatryan already signed a pledge not to leave the country, which is another means of prevention. In other words, another means of prevention has been in use against Gagik Khachatryan for about 5 months and it seemed to have been sufficient to ensure his proper conduct. He did not hide, did not abscond from justice, did not interfere with the investigation in any way and did not commit any new crimes in this period of time. The defense lawyers have asked - what was the compelling evidence that made the court think that Gagik Khachatryan would start running away from justice, interfering with the investigation or committing new crimes unless he is detained now. “If he were to engage in such unlawful behavior, why didn’t he do so in the last five months?” – the lawyers emphasize.
3. By some surprising coincidence, all of the motions regarding Gagik Khachatryan have been assigned to the same judge.
Gagik Khachatryan’s legal team is suspicious of the “coincidence” by which the motion to detain Gagik Khachatryan was assigned to the same judge who had approved the motions to search Gagik Khachatryan’s apartments without any justification. The same judge was assigned to the hearing on the lawfulness of Gagik Khachatryan’s arrest.
4. While in the Federal Republic of Germany, Gagik Khachatryan interrupted his post-surgery treatment and returned to the Republic of Armenia, at the first call from the investigator.
Gagik Khachatryan’s case contains evidence that, while free, Gagik Khachatryan did not hide from the investigation, did not interfere with the investigation and did not commit a new crime. While in Germany, he interrupted his mandatory post-surgery treatment and returned to the Republic of Armenia at the first call of the investigator, and reported to the investigative authorities, so that his presence could contribute to a complete and objective investigation. However, he needs a second surgery. It is obvious that, if Gagik Khachatryan had wanted to hide, he would not have returned to Armenia under any circumstances.
5. Gagik Khachatryan prohibited his lawyers from using the fact of his grave illness as an argument
Despite the fact that Gagik Khachatryan has grave illnesses that, according to a consilium of doctors cannot be treated in the Republic of Armenia (which requires the state not only to release him from detention but also grant him a permission to leave the country for a short period of time), Gagik Khachatryan has prohibited his lawyers from talking about it in great detail, because he hopes that, despite everything, the investigation will be objective and fair and the relevant authorities will make decisions based on laws.
6. Gagik Khachatryan’s position on the investigation.
Gagik Khachatryan returned to the Republic of Armenia and reported to the investigative authorities, specifically so that his presence would allow them to conduct a thorough and objective investigation. His position is that, if an objective investigation proves that he committed any crime, then he is prepared to be prosecuted for it.
However, the investigation has been going on for about 7 months already and it can take several more months or even years, and there is no reasonable justification as to why he should remain in detention throughout this time. Moreover, even though Gagik Khachatryan does not accept the charges, he agreed to make a deposit into a relevant government body’s account in the amount of damages that he is alleged to have caused, in order to demonstrate his proper behavior and readiness to assist the investigation in any way. If the charges against him are proven and confirmed by a lawful court verdict, this deposit will be used to provide compensation.
Court practice shows that in cases involving similar crimes, when the alleged damage is compensated in such a way, courts release the accused individuals on bail in most cases.
7. Demand for transparency of proceedings.
Every single hearing related to Gagik Khachatryan has been conducted behind closed doors. His lawyer has already talked about the issue of closed pre-trial hearings. If the pre-trial hearings were open to the public, everyone would see clearly that the decision on detention was made with simple, significant and blatant violations, which are obvious even to individuals with only basis legal knowledge. Therefore, it is impossible to believe that a judge with years of experience is not familiar with the basic legal principles. Based on the above, the only possible conclusion is that there have been direct or indirect pressures on the court.
Facts about charges against Gagik Khachatryan are also presented in brief video in Armenia https://youtu.be/DNE9s5WBhbU