Armenians take to the street demanding arrest of corrupt general
An Armenian court has released General Manuel Grigoryan on bail of 25 million dram –about $55,000.
Following the decision, hundreds of indignant citizens took to the streets of Echmiadzin, Grigoryan’s hometown, demanding the former deputy be retained in detention.
What is Grigoryan accused of?
Grigoryan, an MP and member of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia, was first arrested back in the summer on suspicion of the illegal acquisition and storage of weapons and ammunition.
The National Security Service conducted a search of his home, and in addition to a large number of weapons, found canned food for the army, personal hygiene products and underwear, much of which had been amassed during the conflict in Karabakh in April 2016.
In footage released by the National Security Service from the search, one can see Grigoryan’s fleet of cars, including rare ones, and numerous certificates of real estate ownership.
It also turned out that the general had a zoo in which he kept rare animals, including tigers, bears and ostriches. The animals were being fed rations intended for soldiers.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called Manvel Grigoryan’s case the largest corruption scandal in the entire independent history of Armenia.
The National Security Service video was vigorously debated by social network users. People were shocked by what they learned and demanded retribution.
Why was Grigoryan released?
The reason for Grigoryan’s release was his state of health. His lawyer has repeatedly said in recent weeks that his client is dying of cancer.
The defence believes that there is no point in keeping Grigoryan in prison, since the latter will in no way interfere with an objective investigation nor does he intend to leave the country.
Why are people taking to the streets?
The next morning after the court’s decision, Echmiadzin protesters blocked the Yerevan-Echmiadzin and Yerevan-Armavir routes. They demanded a meeting with the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General and an explanation regarding the court’s rationale.
Protests continued in the capital. As a result, protesters managed to meet with the General Prosecutor of Armenia Artur Davtyan. He said that the Prosecutor General’s Office had already decided to appeal the decision of the court made during the first sitting:
“We believe that his illnesses are not such that it is incompatible with being under arrest. In order to establish [whether his illnesses mean he should be in prison or not], an examination has been scheduled.”
The Prosecutor General’s office also said it believes Grigoryan will try to put pressure on the investigation:
“We have reason to believe that if freed, Manvel Grigoryan may not show the proper behavior required by law. And we will justify these assumptions.”
Social media reaction
Users have reacted negatively to the court decision. Here are a couple of typical Facebook comments:
“[This is] the end of the new government. No more faith, everyone is after money.”
“If you had to release him, then why was his arrest broadcast across the world?”