By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenian prosecutors have dropped a criminal case against Nikol Pashinian, the editor of the opposition-linked daily "Haykakan Zhamanak" charged with slandering a senior government official.
Pashinian told RFE/RL that he was summoned to a prosecutor's office in Yerevan and officially informed about the end of the criminal proceedings on Thursday. He said the prosecutor cited the lack of evidence as the main reason for their decision.
The unexpected move followed a court ruling on March 19 allowing the prosecutors to carry on with their investigation into a complaint lodged by Hovannes Yeritsian, the controversial head of the Armenian civil aviation agency. Yeritsian claims that he was insulted by "Haykakan Zhamanak."
The accusations leveled against Pashinian stemmed from an allegedly offensive caption under a front-page photograph of Yeritsian in the November 6 issue of the outspoken newspaper. "Degenerate officials recruited for the civil service," the caption read.
Pashinian and his lawyers insist that "Haykakan Zhamanak," which is highly critical of the Armenian leadership, did not intend to insult Yeritsian or any other government official. They had urged a Yerevan court to throw out the case condemned by a local media association as a threat to press freedom in Armenia. Armenian parties represented in the parliament have also criticized it.
One of the best selling Armenian dailies, "Haykakan Zhamanak" is thought to be close to political allies of former president Levon Ter-Petrosian.