Calls for violent overthrow of authorities to be punished

Calls for violent overthrow of authorities to be punished – Armenian

Hayots Ashkarh, Yerevan
2 Apr 04

The Armenian prosecutor general has said that anyone found guilty of
calling for the authorities to be overthrown by force will be punished
within the framework of the law. Interviewed by Armenian newspaper
Hayots Ashkarh, Agvan Ovsepyan explained the recent criminal case
opened against members of the opposition Justice bloc. He said that at
unsanctioned rallies the opposition had been insulting the authorities
and calling for them to be overthrown. If the investigation finds any
MPs guilty, then parliament will be asked to lift their immunity from
prosecution. Ovsepyan said he had written to the chairman of
parliament and the prime minister, saying that some deputies were at
times engaged in criminal activity. The following is an excerpt from
Kima Yegiazaryan’s interview with Ovsepyan in Armenian newspaper
Hayots Ashkarh on 2 April headlined “Prosecutor’s Office will act
within framework of law”; subheadings inserted editorially:

An interview with Armenian Prosecutor General Agvan Ovsepyan.

[Hayots Ashkarh correspondent] Mr Ovsepyan, according to information
published recently by the Prosecutor General’s office, on 30 March an
action was brought against people who at unsanctioned meetings called
for the forcible seizure of state power and a change in the state’s
constitutional order. Against whom exactly in the Justice bloc has
this action been brought?

[Agvan Ovsepyan] The action was brought by the deputy prosecutor
general, [Zhirayr] Kharatyan, according to all the documents that the
prosecutor’s structures received in the regions and districts. All
these documents evidently fall under the second part of Articles 301
and 318 of the criminal code [public calls to change the authorities
and constitutional system by force and publicly insulting an
official], so the action was brought. We held a discussion before
bringing an action. The action was brought on the basis of the
facts. Since February representatives of the Justice bloc and their
supporters, organizing mainly unsanctioned mass-meetings in the
regions of Armenia and in Yerevan, have publicly insulted the
authorities and called for state power to be seized by force.

Parliament can lift deputies’ immunity

[Correspondent] Are there defendants or suspects? Specifically against
whom have actions been brought?

[Ovsepyan] An action has been brought over what happened and the names
of representatives of the bloc and their supporters are mentioned in
the decision. The investigation group has the objective of studying
all the evidence in detail, of interrogating participants in the
mass-meetings, those who made these calls and then to specify the
identity of each of them according to the facts.

[Correspondent] Some of those calling for the use of force are
representatives of the Justice bloc and National Assembly deputies who
have deputy immunity. In that case, how will the prosecutor’s office
settle the problem of making them responsible?

[Ovsepyan] If the criminal case substantiates that any MP committed a
crime, in that case we shall again act according to the law. The law
on the status of deputies says that before an action is brought
against them or they are arrested, the National Assembly should give
its accord.

[Correspondent] Stemming from the analysis you have already done of
the meetings, who has been arrested?

[Ovsepyan] Certainly we have the video tapes, but in order to avoid
damaging the presumption of innocence, let me speak only about the
evidence gained by the criminal case. Anyway I would like to say that
in the calls of opposition representatives there were expressions
which offended representatives of the authorities and their
dignity. There were calls to break their heads, their backs. I am not
a politician, but as prosecutor general I announce that the whole
prosecutor’s system should function within the framework of the law
and should ensure the necessary protection of the values enshrined in
law. And if we touch on the Criminal Code of Armenia, as it is
foreseen in the legislation of all other countries, there are also
relevant articles in our legislation, which foresee very strong
responsibility for encroachment on the state and public system. And in
this sense our legislation is no exception.

Democracy does not mean anarchy

[Correspondent] Recently they have talked much about sanctioned and
unsanctioned meetings. The mayor’s offices have function of giving or
not giving sanction. Can you explain, according to what law Yerevan’s
mayor has the right to sanction the holding of any meeting or not to
sanction it? Is there such a law?

[Ovsepyan] Certainly there is. But first I would like to refer to an
Armenian proverb that says: you are free but you are not free to
hamper the freedom of others. Certainly, there is a right to organize
meetings and demonstrations that stems from the principles of the
democratic system, but everything, including democratic principles,
has the obligation of a certain degree of law and order. Democracy
does not mean anarchy. There is an order according to which mayor’s
offices and local authorities should sanction meetings and
demonstrations. For this reason the organizers of meetings and
demonstrations should apply to the local authorities, in particular to
the local authorities of Yerevan and coordinate these events with

[Passage omitted: some points of the law on state management in

If you have noticed, these people who organized all these
mass-meetings are trying to present them as meetings with their
voters, they avoid calling them mass-meetings, but they are really
mass-meetings. As for the meetings with voters, they also have
regulations, before that a deputy should apply to the local government
body and this body must give a venue and even a free hall for the
meeting. But as I know, during meetings with voters they put questions
to deputies and the deputies answer these questions. But during these
mass-meetings voters listen to the calls, they are really

Moreover, I would like to say that I sent messages to the chairman of
the National Assembly and prime minister that say, “Considering the
criminal situation that has been created on the basis of the
aforementioned phenomenon, I think it should be mentioned that
deputies of the National Assembly, who have been voted in and given a
deputy’s immunity, instead of dealing with legislative activity,
commit criminal actions from time to time, accompanied with
unsanctioned meetings, demonstrations and other public events, during
which there are public calls for power to be seized by force, the
constitutional system of Armenia to be changed by force.”

Clash of views led to disorder at Gyumri rally

[Correspondent] Albert Bazeyan [leader of the Anrapetutyun (Republic)
party] says that they have some video tapes about the Gyumri events
[some people were injured during an opposition meeting in Gyumri]. Did
the government supporters really sling eggs at opposition supporters?
Do you have any information?

[Ovsepyan] Of course I have information. Just the same day an action
was brought. I think that if we talk about a group of people that can
have their own view concerning foreign and domestic policy as well as
the activity of the authorities, other groups of people may also have
their view and it is not at all necessary that their views should
coincide. In Gyumri some people appeared who were against the calls
made during the meeting and expressed their viewpoint. That time
there was a clash during which women suffered and a disabled
serviceman, who came forward with a statement that nobody has the
right to express the view on behalf of all servicemen that everybody
agrees that there should be a change of power. This disabled
serviceman was also beaten.

[Passage omitted: more details of the event]

We have a video tape of the Gyumri events, there is no secret,
everything is obvious.

Criminal case prepared before Ovsepyan’s appointment

[Correspondent] Did the impetus to bring an action against the Justice
bloc come from the president’s administration? Or was it your own

[Ovsepyan] The meetings were held before my appointment. So the
documents which have become grounds for bringing an action were
prepared before my appointment as prosecutor general. And as
prosecutor general, I must carry out the obligations given to me
according to the law.

[Correspondent] According to you, what kind of actions does the
opposition have the right to carry out? Let us suppose that the
opposition holds meetings for 10 days, or three or four persons are
holding a sit-down strike in front of the president’s administration,
how will the prosecutor’s office comment on this?

[Ovsepyan] To be honest, I am not going to offer a programme to the
opposition. They themselves know very well what they can and cannot
do. Being MPs they themselves adopted that law and know that better
than me. I can definitely say that the prosecutor’s office and
law-enforcement agencies will not allow any encroachment on or
breaking of the law. One may implement any action within the framework
of the law. I was very impressed by the statement of the Armenian
president that representatives of the opposition as well as of the
government, all of them are Armenian citizens, I am the president of
them all and I must guarantee the rights of all of them.