There Are Innocent People in Prisons of Armenia
As a result of judicial error there are sentenced people both in Armenia and in many other states of the world who need legal support and their cases need accurate journalistic investigation, said Zaruhi Mejlumyan, Head of “Armenian Innocence Project” NGO, at the Media Center hosted press conference.

It has been for а long time that there are special public institutions in European states and the USA where the experts reopen and review the cases of the prisoners who can be victims of judicial error. There are many cases in the judicial legal practice when people were sentenced based on false testimony or the testimony of one person.  The objective of those institutions is to reopen cases if there are suspicions or new circumstances, to find out whether the prisoner is a victim of judicial error or not through professional debates.   

“I highlight the factor of journalists in this matter to form agendas, to point out problems and then to achieve their consistent solutions. We can promote these agenda issues to be revealed and, why not, we can act as catalyst for solving them”, Mejlumyan said and added that the problem of reopening cases is much more complicated in Armenia because in accordance with the requirement of law, evidence obtained in cases is destroyed after verdicts are published.  

According to Mejlumyan, only now steps are taken to make amendments in the legislation and to forbid destruction of evidence.

Mejlumyan said that she learned about the case of Michael O’Brien from the film shot by a journalist.   “He was sentenced for murder. For 11 years he had always insisted that he had been convicted wrongfully, that he was serving wrong punishment, that he was not a murderer.   In 1987 he was 19 years old, and was already married. He had a son and his wife was pregnant. He was sentenced and he lost his family. He says that he lost his family and obtained education of a lawyer.  After being imprisoned for 3 years he began to study Law and he says that it is the only way to defend his rights,” said Mejlumyan. 

“There were numerous programs broadcasted just about my case in my country which had a great influence”, Michael O’Brien said.

However, according to Professor Michael Naughton, international practice is not much different from the situation in Armenia in respect to judicial errors. “When we do analysis of reasons of judicial errors in different countries, they are basically the same. In all countries we see the illegal work of the police – physical and psychological pressure on defendants, falsification of evidence. Prosecutors sometimes win cases not for the restoration of justice but for their reputation,” said the speaker.

Arshaluys Mghdesyan

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