Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian struck a defiant note on Friday as the pro-government majority in Armenia’s parliament indicated its intention to lift his legal immunity from prosecution on controversial criminal charges.
Oskanian said that he is undaunted by what he considers a politically motivated prosecution and will fight against President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration “to the end.”
In a written statement, Oskanian dismissed Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian’s decision to ask the National Assembly to allow his prosecution on money laundering charges. He said the move heralds “a new phase in my political struggle.”
“If the purpose of all this is to inhibit my political activities and silence my criticism of a government that has failed in all areas, then I than can definitely say that the authorities are mistaken in these calculations as well,” he said.
“Even in these circumstances and on this plane, I am ready to continue my struggle for real changes in the country,” added the ex-minister, who was elected to the parliament on the ticket of the opposition-leaning Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).
Oskanian claimed to be in a “very good mood” after attending an emergency meeting of the BHK’s parliamentary faction chaired by Tsarukian. The BHK made no official statements immediately after the meeting held at the premises of a Yerevan winery owned by Tsarukian.
The parliament will discuss the matter at an extraordinary sitting slated for Monday. Prosecutor-General Hovsepian will address lawmakers and answer their questions before they vote for or against Oskanian’s prosecution in secret ballot.
Deputy parliament speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, who is also the chief spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), indicated that HHK deputies will be told to authorize the National Security Service to press charges against Oskanian.
“We will vote in accordance with Armenia’s interests,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “And Armenia’s interests require every deputy and political force to be impartial and act in accordance with Armenia’s laws and constitution. And the Armenian constitution stipulates that … any breach of law must be punished.”