Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian will join the Armenian delegation at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) to regain his immunity from prosecution on controversial charges, his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) said on Monday.
The BHK, which boasts the second largest faction in Armenia’s parliament, is represented in the 8-member parliamentary delegation by two lawmakers, Naira Zohrabian and Vahe Hovannisian. They both expressed readiness to resign in Oskanian’s favor earlier this month when the National Assembly allowed his prosecution on embezzlement charges which the party considers politically motivated.
Law-enforcement authorities need a separate parliament permission to arrest Oskanian pending investigation. So far, they have signaled no intention to keep him in pre-trial custody.
“Mr. Oskanian realizes that any development is possible and, in principle, he is not against such a substitution [within the PACE delegation] at the right moment,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Zohrabian said she or Hovannisian will formally cede their PACE seat to the ex-minister before the Strasbourg-based assembly’s next plenary session in January. The move will “give our colleague additional immunity,” she said.
Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), whose lawmakers overwhelmingly voted for Oskanian’s prosecution, said the BHK is free to decide who represents it at the PACE. But Sahakian seemed to imply that such a substitution is unnecessary because the authorities will not move to arrest Oskanian anytime soon.
The composition of Armenian parliamentary delegations at the PACE and other international bodies is ultimately decided by speaker Hovik Abrahamian based on proposals made by various factions. Abrahamian has not blocked any partisan nominations so far.