Armenian authorities move against opposition leader Gagik Tsarukyan
15 June 2020

The Armenian authorities have moved against the leader of the largest opposition party in parliament, Gagik Tsarukyan, searching his house on Sunday morning, and questioning him for eight hours at the offices of the National Security Service. The leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party(PAP) is one of the country's most colourful politicians, and also one of its richest citizens - an oligarch with varied business interests who has so far been considered as untouchable. PAP has 26 members in the country's 132 seat legislature.

On Sunday, Tsarukyan's supporters gathered, first near his house and later at the offices of the National Security Service to protest against his detention. Dozens of people were arrested during some tense confrontations with police. Opposition leaders accused the police of excessive use of force, although there were no reports of anyone being hospitalised.

The National Security Service issued a number of statements explaining what cases where being investigated. They include financial irregularities at Casino Shangri La owned by Gagik Tsarukyan. According to the NSS statement, it operated without a license, which resulted in the loss of billions of Armenian Drams in damage to the state budget.

The case is related to vote buying during the 2017 parliamentary election.

A third case involves illegal transfer of land in Kotayk district.

Tsarukyan has said that the authorities have moved against him after he called for resignations from government for their failure to deal properly with the coronavirus pandemic. The government has insisted that no one is above the law.

As a member of parliament Gagik Tsarukyan has parliamentary immunity. PAP politicians on Monday said they expected the government to address the parliament to lift this immunity.

In a carefully worded statement, Armenia's second largest parliamentary opposition party - Bright Armenia on Monday called on the authorities to desist from selective justice and blackmail. The statement said:

"The Bright Armenia party reaffirms that those who have committed crimes should be prosecuted and sentenced in accordance with the RA legislation.

At the same time, by adhering to the values ​​of the rule of law and the rule of law, we condemn the political influence and control over any criminal prosecution. Anyone who violates the law should be held accountable with the full force of the law, but the use of legal proceedings, as well as the use of blackmail and compromising information as a political tool to silence, suppress and suppress opponents, is unacceptable and reprehensible. Political influence over law enforcement destroys the legitimacy of criminal prosecution.

Along with the above-mentioned processes, the representatives of the political authorities, including the deputies and the ministers, were spreading evidence on social networks that apparently contained confidential information from the preliminary investigation.

Moreover, the above-mentioned officials made statements with a clear violation of the presumption of innocence.

It is noteworthy that criminal cases are initiated on different cases during the same day and the same person is summoned for questioning in the same cases.

The above clearly shows that criminal prosecution takes place under political intervention and control. This already proves the obvious lack of honesty of the ruling political force in the implementation of state policy and being guided by double standards, which is manifested in compromising policy and selective application of the law. The Bright Armenia Party strongly condemns the criminal prosecution and the selective application of the law on the basis of political expediency.

We call on the authorities to fight the epidemic and manage the difficult socio-economic situation, leaving the criminal prosecution only to the law enforcement agencies."

source; with agencies.

photo: Gagik Tsarukyan (archive picture)