Investigative journalist Zaruhi Mejlumyan recalled the statistics in the USA where 328 convicts were released based on the DNA testing in 2014 while there is no such precedent in Armenia.
“It is this very statistics that has forced me to go through our archives and see how the court sentenced people to life imprisonment in the 1990s. In addition, as a journalist, I have received a lot of letters from prisoners claiming they are innocent and their punishment was too cruel. I studied Mher Yenokyan’s and Soghomon Kocharyan’s cases at the archives of the judicial department along with the cases of other 11 convicts, who were mostly involved in military cases and sentenced at the age of 20-21 years,” Mejlumyan said.
The documents were not digitalized, with a four-month investigation and ensuing trial each with one witness only who is constantly changing their testimony, Mejlumyan said. The decision courts made were weird since they read that evidence must be destroyed.
“The availability of DNA testing is a preamble to a great revolution in the justice system. Our prosecutors keep on denying that mistakes in the justice system are possible, refusing to investigate Soghom Kocharyan’s, Artur Mkrtchyan’s and Mher Yenokyan’s cases,” Mejlumyan said.
Avetik Ishkhanyan, Chairman at Armenia's Helsinki Committee, described the Government’s attitude towards the convicts imprisoned to life sentence as hard to understand.
“A newly revealed circumstance may be crucial in cases of prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment. We have filed motions to the Cassation Court for Soghomon Kocharyan's and Artur Mkrtchyan's cases. There is a problem within the society, too. When talking about life-term prisoners, people are startled as if it were not the same justice system they are always speaking bad of. It is the public demand which we lack while the authorities choose to neglect the field. It is a matter of political decision,” Ishkhanyan said.
Levon Baghdasaryan, Mher Yenokyan’s lawyer, said highly developed countries as USA, Canada, European states and even Russia admit there may be mistakes in the justice system.
“We do not have a precedent which would reflect the Government’s position. Instead, have crippled destinies in prisons. The state which is legally responsible for the judicial mistake keeps avoiding the term judicial mistake and imprisoned brothers and sisters as persistently as people in the 19th century were terrified of lepers,” Baghdasaryan said.
“We shout, cry to the authorities that the international expert concluded that Mher Yenokyan was not the criminal and urged the agencies to investigate and examine newly revealed circumstances. In Armenia, anyway, there is no such precedent,” Baghdasaryan said.
Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator