Politically-motivated Justice is No Justice

Keghart.com Editor, 6 October 2012

Like other issues, we treat non-governmental foundations, which have appeared recently in Armenia, with a grain of salt. Trustworthiness of these organizations is on shaky ground when the list of non-Armenian foreign donors with questionable political backgrounds and agendas are factored in. We view the Civilitas Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO), in this context.

Irrespective of the history and development of the Armenia NGOs, the charges brought against Civilitas head Vartan Oskanian are politically motivated to liquidate a prominent leader of the opposition through the state apparatus. The government of Armenia has set on a course which is reminiscent of the Thirties' Soviet reign of Stalin. Is this what Armenians in the motherland and in the Diaspora have struggled for?

Readers of Keghart, of whatever political background, are invited to listen to Mr. Oskanian's 19-minute speech in the Armenian Parliament on Oct. 1, 2012. Each "accused" person has the right to be heard, and individuals, while trying to formulate their views, are entitled to their expression, without being influenced or coerced by the "mandated" opinion of the establishment in Armenia and in the Diaspora.

 

Keghart.com Editor, 6 October 2012

Like other issues, we treat non-governmental foundations, which have appeared recently in Armenia, with a grain of salt. Trustworthiness of these organizations is on shaky ground when the list of non-Armenian foreign donors with questionable political backgrounds and agendas are factored in. We view the Civilitas Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO), in this context.

Irrespective of the history and development of the Armenia NGOs, the charges brought against Civilitas head Vartan Oskanian are politically motivated to liquidate a prominent leader of the opposition through the state apparatus. The government of Armenia has set on a course which is reminiscent of the Thirties' Soviet reign of Stalin. Is this what Armenians in the motherland and in the Diaspora have struggled for?

Readers of Keghart, of whatever political background, are invited to listen to Mr. Oskanian's 19-minute speech in the Armenian Parliament on Oct. 1, 2012. Each "accused" person has the right to be heard, and individuals, while trying to formulate their views, are entitled to their expression, without being influenced or coerced by the "mandated" opinion of the establishment in Armenia and in the Diaspora.

 

October 6, 2012

Dear friend,

Of all the newsletters you’ve received from the Civilitas Foundation over these four years, I think none has been less useful and less good for Armenia and for Civilitas than this one.  
Nevertheless, I must tell you that this is where we stand:
 
On October 8, at noon, Yerevan time, Mr. Oskanian will be charged. The charges most probably will be embezzlement and money laundering. Together, the charges carry possible prison sentences of four to 20 years.
 
In the meanwhile, the Armenian Tax Service continues its investigation into Civilitas’s records. Nothing has been found thus far, but they do and will keep checking.
 
On the other hand, the popular response as well as the international response has been overwhelmingly supportive.  From David Ignatius of the Washington Post, to Al Jazeera, to the HuffPost, the foreign press is saying what must be said – that this is not what Armenia needed at a time when the world’s attention is riveted on our region. In Azerbaijan, as we reported on CivilNet, oil production slowed down in 2011, three years earlier than expected.  In Georgia, the ruling party demonstrated that it understands democracy. And in Armenia – our attention and focus has been diverted to a baseless, politically-motivated criminal prosecution.
 
Our only tools are our voices and our convictions. Towards that end, a petition has been launched at change.org.  If you agree with the text there, please sign. But do more than sign. Please share with everyone. No limitations – anyone can sign. Armenian or not, citizen or not. What is important is that real people, caring and concerned individuals, raise their voices about this attack on democracy.
 
Thank you. Donations are being gladly accepted to facilitate the additional work that these dual investigations demand.

 

 

Սիվիլիթաս Հիմնադրամ
Հյուսիսային պողոտա 1, գրասենյակ 26
Երևան, Հայաստան

[email protected]
http://www.civilitasfoundation.org
հեռ.` (+374 10) 500 119
ֆաքս` (+374 10) 500 112

 

Աշխարհահռչակ ռեժիսոր Ատոմ Էգոյանը, որը Սիվիլիթաս հիմնադրամի պատվո խրհրդի անդամ է, իր աջակցությունն է հայտնել Վարդան Օսկանյանին՝ նրա դեմ սկսված քաղաքական հետապնդման գործում: Էգոյանի հայտարարությունը ներկայացված է ստորև:

Ես ճանաչում եմ Վարդան Օսկանյանին երկար տարիներ և համոզված եմ, որ նա փայլուն պետական գործիչ է, Հայաստանի բարգավաճման ու բարօրության նվիրյալ: Նա իրավամբ միջազգային հեղինակություն ունի՝ ունակ ստեղծելու կարևոր կապեր և բերելու ժողովրդավարական բարեփոխման թանկ գաղափարներ, ազատ մեդիա մի երկիր, որը դեռ չի թոթափել խորհրդային ժամանակաշրջանի ավելի քան յոթանասուն տարիների վերահսկողությունը:

Այս գիտակցումով ես առանց վարանելու ընդունեցի Սիվիլիթասի ստեղծման գործում ներգրավվելու պարոն Օսկանյանի առաջարկը: Ես ականատեսն եմ եղել, թե ինչպես է կարևոր այս կազմակերպությունը նպաստել բաց և հրապարակային բանավեճին մի երկրում, որն ինձ համար թանկ է և որով ես հպարտ եմ: Սա է պատճառը, որ ես այսքան ցնցված եմ և վրդովված ներկայիս մեղադրանքներից, որոնք առաջադրվել են պարոն Օսկանյանի դեմ: Վարդան Օսկանյանին հալածելը պախարակելի և քաղաքական դրդապատճառներ ունեցող արարք է, որը չափազանց վտանգավոր է երկրի առողջության համար:

Հայաստանի գլխավոր դատախազին ես հորդորում եմ լրջորեն հաշվի առնել Վարդան Օսկանյանին անձեռնմխելիությունից զրկելու և շինծու մեղադրանքներով դատապարտելու հետևանքները: Այս գործողությանը մեծագույն մտահոգությամբ հետևում են բոլոր այն մարդիկ, ովքեր մտահոգված են խոսքի ազատությամբ իրապես ժողովրդակավարական և ժամանակակից երկրում:

Atom Egoyan
Filmmaker
Member of the Civilitas Foundation Honorary Board
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
October 1, 2012

I have known Vartan Oskanian for many years, and believe that he is a brilliant statesman, committed to Armenia’s prosperity and well-being.  He is a truly international presence, capable of creating important bonds and bringing cherished ideas of democratic reform and free media to a country that is still recovering from over seventy years of Soviet-era control.
 
With this in mind, I immediately accepted Mr. Oskanian’s invitation to lend my name to the formation of Civilitas.  I have watched as this vital organization has helped shape the course of open discussion and debate within a country I cherish and so proud of.  This is why I am so shocked and upset by the current charges that have been brought against Mr. Oskanian.  The persecution of Vartan Oskanian is a deplorable and politically motivated action which is extremely dangerous to the health of the country.
 
I urge the Prosecutor General of Armenia to seriously consider the consequences of removing Vartan Oskanian’s immunity and to charge him with this trumped-up charge.  This action is being watched with great concern by anyone who is concerned with freedom of expression in a truly democratic and modern country.

15 comments
  1. A Joke?

    If this were a joke, it could win a comedy prize.

    For the authorities in Armenia to accuse Oskanian of financial fraud and embezzlement, it would be the equivalent of the North Korean regime accusing its opposition with human rights' abuses. After all, this is a regime that harbors ministers whose henchmen murder young physicians of the Armenian army, for no particular reason. The closest parallel in our own tortured history is the accusations of genocide leveled against the Armenians by the Turkish regime.

    As they say in Armenian, varbed koghe dan dereh kogh ge haneh Վարպետ գողը տան տէրը գող կը հանէ: Meaning, of course, that the shrewd thief makes as if the homeowner (the victim) is the robber.

    Let us hope, that this is perhaps an indication of how desperate the oligarchs have become.

    Viken Attarian
     

    1. In Defense of Mr. Oskanian

      Dear Mr. Attarian,

      The post above yours, by Papken, is reminiscent of the many such in courthouses, wherein, as you describe, the process is in reverse. All I can say, as an observer (I have been to Mr. Oskanian's offices several times), just to pay rent plus salaries, utilities, CivilNet maintenance, organizing almost-monthly conferences in very expensive hotels  (Hotel Yerevan, Ani) and entertain the attendants requires money. Add on these the time he and aide Salpi Ghazarian spend to promote civil societies in the RoA is not and should not be free of charge. Both of them deserve, nay, are to be paid for their time and efforts. By whom?

      The government of the RoA?

      By benefactors in Armenia?

      I ask you if a U.S. benefactor (not Armenian) places at the disposition of Vartan Oskanian a couple million dollars to administer it as he sees fit, why all the fuss and fanfare to smear him and strip him of his MP immunity? It is lamentable that (some) of our dear MPs spare no effort to accuse him of embezzlement, etc. while remaining deaf or mute regarding the almost monthly inflow of 30 million Euros and millions of dollars from this and that country as long-term loans to Armenia, and or handouts. Is there someone who would have these responsible entities give an accounting of  how they apply these monies?

      There were some–kudos to them and to Aghvan Vardanian of the ARF–who spoke in defense of  Mr. Oskanian. Someone even proposed to prosecute the prosecutor. Shame on those who intentionally overlook the above facts and carry on such "vargabeghich" scenarios…and that in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia while our very kind two neighbors must be having the time of their lives, laughing at those Ermenis who never learned to be like us Turco-Azeris. However, if this is the beginning (usually in such cases a scapegoat is handy) then good going.

    2. A Joke Or Not a Joke

      Dear Viken Attarian,

      The issue is whether or not Mr. Oskanian has violated the criminal code of Republic of Armenia. Your comments are not relevant, even if as arguments they are true. Mr. Oskanian, in his 19-minute speech, failed to respond to two crucial claims of the government: first, he was accused of spending about $141,000 of Civilitas money for his personal purposes; second, he has lent $60,000 of Civilitas money to Salpi Ghazarian. Instead, Mr. Oskanian repeatedly said that he was given power of attorney to spend the donated money as he wished. However, the point is that his wish should have been for the purposes of Civilitas, not strangers. 

      1. RoA: Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

        Dear Mr. Hartunian,

        Thank you for responding to my comment.  Obviously this issue of financial fraud in the RoA is of concern to you, and righfully so.  Let me go over the details though:

        1.  It seems to me that in his 19-minute speech, Mr. Oskanian did address the issue of $200+k in his possession.  Please listen to it again.  He clearly says why the amount was kept outside of the fixed income deposit, as part of the operational expense he was anticipating for Civilitas, and that was what it was used for.  He mentions that that amount is accounted for to the penny and that he is cleared of what it was spent on with the reports of financial auditors.  Now it could be that because he is speaking in Eastern Armenian, perhaps this context has eluded you, but, based purely on your surname and how you spell it (Hartunian) I am guessing (and this is a very wild guess on my part) that you are likely an Armenian originally from Iran.  In which case, Eastern Armenian should be your native tongue (I know two other Hartunians both of whom being Iranian-Armenians). Eastern Armenian dialect differences notwithstanding, perhaps you might have overlooked this detail.  Or you simply choose not to believe him and his documents, which is also your right.  If it is the latter though, your word is as good as Oskanian's.  The only difference, as an American, you should also be a defender of the principle of presumption of innocence, until proven guilty in a court of law. Are you?

        2.  Salpi Ghazarian is NOT a stranger as you suggest, she is the director of Civilitas.  Do you think she works for free? Or do you think that she should not have access to funds for various organizational expenses?

        3.  In your initial posting, you also question as to why someone who has a personal account of close to $700k in a bank, would choose to "embezzle" $140k?  Why indeed?  Obviously this is a source of doubt in your own mind.  But perhaps, just perhaps in your haste to give your "verdict" on Mr. Oskanian's case, you have chosen to stifle this healthy doubt.

        4.  If my comments are irrelevant but my arguments true, wouldn't there be a contradiction in your statement?  Let me demonstrate. I can sort of guess what you are trying to express, presumably that I am off topic (i.e. this is a legal case and my comments irrelevant, because they do not pertain to the case in question and are of a political nature) but, that, while being off topic my arguments are true (about the faults of the regime of the RoA).  Well, this is what I understand, and if that is your position, then you are a firm believer in the independence of the judiciary in Armenia (only in which case your convoluted argument would make sense). But even giving you the benefit of the doubt, i.e. my interpretation of what you are saying being as described, then if you believe that my arguments are true (about the corruptness of the regime) then how can you ever reconcile that position with your inherent position of the belief in the independence of the RoA judiciary as above.  And if you still believe the latter, let me ask you if you believe that the judiciary system in Zimbabwe is also independent.

        5. For the record, and for the record only, Mr. Oskanian writes his own speeches.  Once again, I will assume that yours was an honest remark, and not a veiled attempt at irony and at character assassination.  Otherwise, your own "unbiased" indignation would be in question.

        Paregamoren

        VLA

        1. Republic of Armenia vs. Oskanian, et.al.

          Dear M. Attarian:

          I thank you for your detailed reply to my “convoluted” post. Yes. I am. I listened to Mr. Oskanian's speech and Mr. Hovsepyan’s speech as well. Mr. Oskanian at no time has rejected the Attorney General’s accusation regarding misuse of $181,000. Although, he did state that all of the intended Civilitas fund have been deposited to the Civilitas account.  As to Salpi Ghazarian, she has borrowed $60,000.00 for her personal use according to the Attorney General. Salpi Ghazarian is an employee of Civilitas who is subject of going bankrupt like anybody else.  

  2. Questions for Mr. Oskanian

    Mr. Oskanian,

    Would you disagree with the claim of the authorities that you have spent about $141,000 of Civilitas money for your personal purpose which had nothing to do with the Civilitas foundation? Your argument, based on the fact that there is no complainant against you, is premature. The complainant is the public represented by the attorney general of the Republic of Armenia. Your argument, based on the fact that the Civilitas has received all the money that was intended to receive, does not override the accusation against you. Finally, your claim that donors have no claim against you, therefore a criminal act against you cannot exist, is also irrelevant. In fact, the potential of criminal conspiracy between you, donors and the members of Civilitas does exist. Lastly, I wonder why a person like you, who has several hundred thousand dollars in the bank, according the authorities, decides to use $141,000 of trust money for his personal use. 

    I admire whoever has written your speech.

  3. U.S. Benefactor

    Dear Gaytzag Palandjian,

    Re your comment: "I ask you if a U.S. benefactor (not Armenian) places at the disposition of Vartan Oskanian a couple million dollars to administer it as he sees fit, why all the fuss and fanfare to smear him and strip him of his MP immunity?" Any criminal act must have criminal intent, according to the criminal code of a given state, in this case the RoA. The authorities claim that Mr. Oskanian intentionally has spent the trusted fund on behalf of Civilitas, a NGO, which according to the criminal code of RoA is a crime. Mr. Oskanian's testimony did not address these issues, specifically the chief justice's claim that Mr. Oskanian has spent about $141,000 of Civilitas fund for his personal purposes. Also he has authorized $60,000 unsecured loan to the director of Civilitas.

    1. I am not a defense attorney, but …

      Mr. Papken Hartunian,

      It is simply not in Armenians’  interests  to ¨wash  our  dirty clothes¨  in public even  if  it  were for the case  of dear former Minister  V. Oskanian  here,  and above  all at  the National Assembly…unheard  of  in our  Republic’s  history.

      This simply is absurd. Only those who have actually embezzled a hundred, nay a thousand times more such amounts –given to the Republic by odar entities– ought to be judged and condemned and made to pay back, if not able to give accounts. Whereas Mr.  Oskanian did declare in his own defense that the rest of the amount is in his possession. Moreover, he declared that he has even spent from his own pocket for Homeland. Please stop the hysteria.

      It has escaped the authorities that they are actually harming Armenia’s interests, prestige and image by persecuting Oskanian. I believe that some will grasp the importance of creating a good worthy image for our Governmental Apparatus abroad instead of lowering it to the standard of a failed country. Let me add that those who might really enjoy from this fiasco are our two neighbours…

      Please be measured in your remarks and think of OTHER, much more important issues that need immediate attention.

      1. Please stop the hysteria

        Mr. Gaytzag Palandjian:  I have not started anything. I simply tried to answer your questions as good as I could. It is your right to reject or accept my answers. "Please be measured in your remarks and think of OTHER.." I would be more than happy if you can refer to my remarks, specifically, being misplaced in any way. Of course there are many important issues in our country to be resolved ASAP. However, resolving this particular issue should not be disregarded in the expense of those more important issues.

        1. Papken, When I wrote  stop the Hysteria

          Papken,

          When I wrote  stop the Hysteria, it was  not directed  only to you but – as  you can see- to many others. This is a very sensitive  issue, no doubt  about  that . It should be tackled very carefully.  After all Mr. Oskanian was the foreign minister of the Republic of Armenia for 10 years, that's half of the life of the present republic, and served under the administration of two presidents.

          Thence, people who are  hard trying -actually are close to attacking  him- should show some restraint in their expressions. He is not  an ordinary person, just another compatriot in RA.. The man represented  the Whole of Armenidad/Armenity, globally and did whatever he could for  his Homeland. People may differ in their opinion of how he handled various foreign policy issues, but what I see is that some people are just  badmouthing  him here and elsewhere.  FMs  of other countries ARE WATCHING  what  is going  on in tiny Armenia!

          Let us think twice before going any further on this issue. If this deplorable process goes all the way to completely strip him of  having served as the FM for ten years, then it  bodes  very bad for Armenia and Armenians. For our fledgeling Republic is in need  of support, especially from abroad, its Diaspora, from where  he  hails and went to Armenia to serve  his homeland.

           

  4. Judging Mr. Oskanian

    There are two threads in this controversy: first, whether Mr. Voskanian was irresponsible with Civilitas funds; second, whether his troubles are politically motivated.

    It seems to me that some people are defending Mr. Voskanian because their mutual antagonist is the Yerevan government. This should not be an consideration in a court of law. What matters is whether Mr. Voskanian committed illegalities. I believe he is a patriot, but it doesn't mean patriots don't commit illegal acts.

    To say that the government should clean up its act before charging Mr. Voskanian is bad defense and doesn't reflect well on Mr. Oskanian. Instead, the defenders of Mr. Oskanian should offer counter evidence to negate the government's evidence.

    1. You are correct, but

      Sireli Vahakn,

      You are of course technically correct, however,

      a) Oskanian addresses these issues in his posted speech.  One may or may not believe him, but he has proclaimed himself in his own defense. He is saying that he has clear and verified documents accounting for every single penny, which he has made available to the authorities.  Why don't they verify these documents and establish that they do have a case or not, before moving ahead as they are now?

      b) The question is whether any irregularity of a similar magnitude had resulted in the stripping of parliamentary immunity for the purpose of prosecution for anyone else.  For example, how come the parliamentary immunity of the Oligarch Nemets Rubo (whose henchmen murdered a young physician) was not stripped for him to be questioned and prosecuted?  Why is this case applied only to Oskanian, and if he is telling the truth, then why do the authorities insist to proceed?

      Either he committed crimes or he did not.  If he did, then he should absolutely be prosecuted.  But those who do prosecute him must also withstand the scrutiny of 1) the legality of their own position 2) of the independence of the judiciary (which they can't) and 3) must uphold the basic principle of justice, mainly the presumption of innocence.

      Here's a related question. Please draw the parallels. 

      Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code forbids to admit the veracity of the Genocide of Armenians and considers it an insult to Turkish identity.  Therefore, anyone who breaks that law (i.e. commits an irregularity in your words) must be punished per the prescribed legal provisions. 

      Would you defend the application of that law or would you challenge the right of the Turkish government to prosecute someone under such a law?

      Paregamoren

      VLA

    2. Judging Mr. Oskanian

      Dear Vahakn, I have the same take as yours. Please read my comments. I would appreciate your reactions. Especially, Mr. Attarian in my opinion is off the track.

      Sirov

  5. We all know how much

    We all know how much Armenia's government is impartial and just…
    Give me a break!
     

  6. Mr. Vartan Oskanian

    In regards to Mr Vartan Oskanian (Voskanyan) 

    When I'm not sure who is right or wrong in Armenia, I refer to my childhood trustworthy friend and Kavor (Professor G.M.)  in Armenia, who is one of the rare, non-corrupt and impartial patriot in Armenia. His response in a Persian phrase "Na  Qom khube' Na Kashan La'nat Behar Dotashan", means from the two cities "Neither Qom  is good Nor Kashan. Curse to both of them".  In this case he thinks both sides are not clean…

    Dr. Babajanian
    USA 

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