What the ex-minister of defense, now one of the leaders of the opposition in Armenia is accused of?
Seyran Ohanyan stripped of immunity
Seyran Ohanyan, the former Minister of Defense of Armenia, has been declared a defendant in several criminal cases. On February 8 the National Assembly granted three requests from the Prosecutor General to initiate criminal cases against him, thereby depriving him of parliamentary immunity.
The former minister now heads the Hayastan (Armenia) opposition faction. He did not participate in parliamentary sessions in which the prosecutor general’s petitions were discussed, but made a video statement in which he described the process as “political revenge against those unpleasant for the ruling team.” The parliamentary opposition stated that the government is “settling a score” with Ohanyan and trying to divert attention from the difficult situation in the armed forces and the country’s security.
“There might not have been a criminal prosecution”
The issue was debated in parliament for two days. Of the three petitions submitted by Prosecutor General Anna Vardapetyan, two were discussed openly and one behind closed doors.
The first petition dealt with the illegal sale of special-purpose land plots that served a military unit. In another case, Ohanyan is accused of transferring territory belonging to the Ministry of Defense to a private party, as a result of which the state suffered losses in the amount of more than 5 billion drams ($12 million).
According to information provided by the prosecutor’s office, in both cases Ohanyan violated the requirements of the land code, in which the transfer the ownership of state and municipal territories of special purpose to citizens and legal entities is prohibited.
There is practically no information about the petition discussed behind closed doors. The Prosecutor General said only that this episode of the prosecution contains secret information relating to the defense and security of the state. There were speculations in the Armenian media that it could relate to the case of “unusable missiles.” The main defendant in this case is another former defense minister, David Tonoyan.
As a result, Seyran Ohanyan is accused of
- use of official position in large embezzlement,
- use of one’s official position contrary to the interests of the state, based on personal interest and group interests, which through negligence entailed grave consequences.
According to the Prosecutor General, Ohanyan’s guilt was confirmed by evidence obtained during the preliminary investigation.
The former minister refused to testify about the sale of property and “did not ask to take into account the statute of limitations for the act,” Anna Vardapetyan said.
“If Seyran Ohanyan had asked to take the statute of limitations into account, there might not have been a need to initiate criminal prosecution against him. But in this case, the imperative of the criminal code is the continuation of criminal proceedings in a general manner,” the prosecutor general said.
Ohanyan did not participate in discussions
According to the regulations of the National Assembly, Seyran Ohanyan had the right to make explanations, but he did not appear in the meeting room. Members of the faction told reporters that he has health problems.
The parliamentary opposition boycotted the meetings during which the prosecutor general’s petitions were discussed, calling them “a spectacle organized by the authorities.”
Only deputies of the ruling faction took part in the voting. And since their votes were sufficient, the motion was carried.
“An attempt to divert public attention”
Gegham Manukyan, an MP of the Hayastan opposition faction, considers the case against Ohanyan to be “political revenge.” He says that it was launched in 2019, and the preliminary investigation could have been completed even before Ohanyan had become a deputy. He considers it no coincidence that the prosecutor’s petitions were included in the parliament’s agenda after a fire in a military unit in the Azat settlement in which soldiers died.
“For this reason, it is quite obvious that this is part of the show to divert the attention of the public,” Manukyan said.
Opposition MP Tigran Abrahamyan is of the same opinion. He says the authorities are trying to divert people’s attention from the tragedies taking place in the armed forces, as well as “the loss of the country’s sovereign territory on the border with Azerbaijan due to the failure of the army.”
Moreover, Abrahamyan said that last year the government itself put 71 military facilities up for auction from the balance of the Ministry of Defense, but “today regards the sale of the territory of one military unit as a serious loss.”
“Those who destroy the army cannot blame me”
In his video statement, Seyran Ohanyan stated that law enforcement agencies “targeted” him in order to divert public attention from the destruction of the army. He also talked about the fire in the village of Azat and noted that the case against him “was closed a long time ago, but petitions are presented now to drown out the voices of those who perished there.”
“They decided to raise a fuss to drown out their outrageous crimes. False and groundless criminal cases have been initiated against me,” the former minister said.
According to Ohanyan, the prosecutor’s office did not submit a petition within the framework of a criminal case, but “an indictment with a violation of the presumption of innocence, which is illegal.”
According to political scientist Armen Hovhannisyan, the process is “revenge” by the authorities for parliamentary hearings organized by the opposition “On the issue of closing the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijan.” He stated that the authorities “must stop resorting to the method of protecting themselves by blaming the past”:
“This method is used by the government to make them look better than they are compared to the former government. They can take everything from Seyran Ohanyan, even his first and last name, but then why are they so badly managing this country that is entrusted to them? Let them answer this question.”
Hovhannisyan believes that the ruling party should be engaged in reforms, making important foreign policy decisions, and not just promises. He advises, in addition to pointing out the mistakes made in the past, to take responsibility for their steps and create a platform for the future government.
Hovhannisyan says that he does not see a pro-state faction in the current parliament of Armenia, which would be concerned about solving the country’s pressing problems:
“They are all a bunch of Russian agents, and now they want to say that the country is in a bad state, because the former Russian agents were worse than the current crop.“
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Seyran Ohanyan stripped of immunity