Criminal charges of abuse of authority brought against head of Armenian Constitutional Court
Head of the Armenian Constitutional Court Harry Tovmasyan has been charged with ‘abuse of power, leading to severe consequences through negligence.’
Tovmasyan and the authorities have long been in the midst of a power struggle; the latter says Tovmasyan is an associate of the former authorities and has proven himself unable to make unbiased or independent decisions.
Tovmasyan himself does not recognize the charges against him and refuses to testify. In the meanwhile, Tovmasyan will continue to fulfill his role as head of the country’s Constitutional Court.
What is Tovmasyan accused of?
The case in which Tovmasyan has been charged concerns a criminal case in which his godson Norayr Panosyan is also involved, and. who between 2011-2014 served in the Ministry of Justice as an internal auditor, while Tovmasyan himself was the minister of justice.
The investigation claims that Tovmasyan and Panosyan used their official position:
• to not allow two notaries to register their working addresses free of charge, to which they had every right;
• to agree with employees of the Ministry of Justice and the City Hall of Yerevan, who organized fictitious auctions for the sale of these premises, at prices significantly lower than market prices.
This caused significant damage to the state, since the territories belonged to the Yerevan Municipality, which received no income.
It is also reported that Tomasyan acquired this property in the very center of the capital under a different name. In addition, he rented these premises to the same notaries for a monthly fee of 800 thousand drams (approximately $1,700).
Earlier in October, Tovmasyan’s grandson was arrested in this case, however in November he was released due to a lack of evidence at the time.
Why do the authorities want Tovmasyan off the court?
Recently a law was put forward which would give judges of the constitutional court of Armenia a full pension if they agreed to retire early, which in some cases is more than $2,000 a month. The law was signed into force one day before Tovmasyan was charged.
The opposition has called the bill unconstitutional and politically motivated, and deemed it a ‘legal bribe to judges.’
However, the authorities and public believe that the judicial system must do away with Tovmasyan, as he was a member of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia and held a number of key posts under their rule.
He is known for penning the text of amendments to the constitution in 2015 – as a result of which in December a referendum took place which transformed Armenia from a presidential form of government to a parliamentary one.
Then the incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan publicly stated that he did not intend to occupy the highest post (the premiership) of the country. But in April 2018, when the parliamentary majority elected its leader Serzh Sargsyan as the new Prime Minister, his desire was confirmed to be in power again.
Prior to the amendments to the constitution, he had held the presidency for two terms and could not count on a third. The changes provided him with the opportunity to return to power – now as prime minister, that is, again in high office.
He resigned a few days after the election under the pressure of people who took to the streets in the days of the “velvet” revolution in the spring of 2018.