Armenian government accused of political persecution as another opposition MP faces arrest
Third opposition MP arrested in Armenia
A deputy from the opposition Hayastan faction, former head of the Izmirlian medical center Armen Charchyan will be arrested in Armenia. The prosecution alleges that he urged his staff to “vote against the current authorities [during the June 2020 snap parliamentary elections] and threatened to punish them for failing to do so”.
Thus, a total of three Hayastan bloc MPs of the new convocation will now be held under arrest. Two others – former mayors of Meghri and Sisian Mkhitar Zakaryan and Artur Sargsyan – are accused of embezzlement and abuse of power.
The opposition claims that the arrest of all three MPs is a violation of the country’s law since none of them have been deprived of parliamentary immunity. Both opposition factions in parliament issued statements saying the government is trying to pressure the opposition into silence.
The authorities, however, respond by saying that the criminal cases against Zakaryan and Sargsyan had been launched before they became MPs. In addition, they were placed under arrest with the consent of the Central Election Commission.
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Were the arrests of MPs lawful?
Mkhitar Zakaryan and Artur Sargsyan, who were both on the electoral list of the Hayastan bloc, became deputies of the National Assembly, but could not participate in the work of the new parliament. Former mayors of Meghri and Sisian Mkhitar Zakaryan and Artur Sargsyan were arrested shortly after the elections but before the start of the work of the parliament of the eighth convocation.
The legality of the criminal prosecution and preliminary detention of Zakaryan and Sargsyan is still actively discussed in Armenian society. The fellow MPs say that their arrest violates the country’s law since they are not deprived of parliamentary immunity.
According to the Constitution of Armenia, criminal prosecution of an MP can only be launched with the consent of the National Assembly and an MP cannot be imprisoned without the consent of parliament, except in cases when they are caught committing a crime or immediately after that.
In this regard, the deputy of the Hayastan faction, lawyer Aram Vardevanyan, sent a letter to the General Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor’s office published a response to his letter, explaining that Mkhitar Zakaryan and Artur Sargsyan were imprisoned with the consent of the Central Election Commission:
“After obtaining the status of a deputy of the National Assembly, there is no need to obtain the consent of the parliament on the same issue”.
An identical explanation was given regarding the decision to arrest Armen Charchyan: it was made before he became a deputy.
Armen Charchyan was arrested on June 18, after a recording appeared on the Internet, on which Charchyan can be heard urging his employees to take part in the upcoming elections.
A few days later, the Central Election Commission allowed the launching of a criminal case against him, and the professor was arrested. After spending a month in prison, Armen Charchyan was released on July 21 on bail of 15 million drams [approximately $ 30,000].
“In regards to the decision on the arrest, it is not clear what is the meaning of parliamentary immunity in Armenia. However, today Charchyan will voluntarily appear in the Vardashen penitentiary institution. Deputies of our faction will also be present”, lawyer Aram Vardevanyan, a member of the Hayastan bloc, said at a press conference after the announcement of the court’s verdict.
Statement of Hayastan bloc
In their statement on the arrest of Armen Charchyan, members of the Hayastan opposition bloc note that the judge complied with the “political instructions” of the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. They assess this situation as a manifestation of legal lawlessness and permissiveness:
“Arrest as the only measure of restraint on political matters is an established signature of this government which violates the constitutional and legal principles of the human right to freedom. This is due to the extreme fears of one person”.
The opposition bloc characterizes the authorities as “fighters against our independence on the day of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence”, recalling that on August 23, 1990, the Supreme Soviet of Armenia adopted the Declaration of Independence of the country.
“These authorities have once again convinced our society that the program of national solidarity they proclaimed was false and false. We do not consider it accidental that this shameful decision was made amid a tense border situation and before the government’s program was presented [in parliament]. Our response to these illegal actions will be adequate”, the alliance said in a statement.
The statement emphasizes that the authorities have decided to hold all three MPs hostage.
Statement of opposition I Have The Honor faction
The opposition I Have the Honor faction also issued a statement regarding the re-arrest of traumatologist-orthopedist, Doctor of Medical Sciences Armen Charchyan.
“Such a court decision against Professor Armen Charchyan who possesses a parliamentary immunity is nothing more than political persecution and shameful lawlessness”.
The deputies of this opposition bloc emphasize that the political persecution against the doctor began several months ago and back then it was already unfair and contrary to the law of the country.
In the opinion of the faction deputies, what is happening is “another abuse of power and the law”.