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Lawyer Protests Presidential Hopeful’s ‘Illegal’ Arrest


Armenia -- Presidential candidate Vardan Sedrakyan at a press conference in Yerevan. 10Jan2013

Armenia -- Presidential candidate Vardan Sedrakyan at a press conference in Yerevan. 10Jan2013

A lawyer for Vartan Sedrakian on Thursday asked Armenia’s Court of Appeals to overturn what he called an illegal pre-trial arrest of the presidential candidate accused of attempting to kill another contender.

The lawyer, Aleksandr Sirunian, insisted that the National Security Service (NSS) was not allowed to arrest Sedrakian without the consent of the Central Election Commission (CEC).

Sedrakian, who got less than 1 percent of the vote in the February 19 election, was questioned and arrested by the NSS late on Tuesday on charges of organizing the January 31 shooting attack on fellow candidate Paruyr Hayrikian. A district court in Yerevan swiftly allowed the NSS to keep him under arrest pending trial.

Sirunian said the arrest was illegal because Armenia’s Electoral Code stipulates that presidential candidates cannot be arrested or prosecuted without the CEC’s permission. He said the code also makes clear that they retain this immunity from prosecution even after a presidential election, until the Constitutional Court rules on possible appeals against official vote results. Sedrakian therefore technically remains a candidate, said the lawyer.

The Constitutional Court is currently considering such appeals filed by two other candidates, Raffi Hovannisian and Andreas Ghukasian.

Sirunian also told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that his client is continuing to strongly deny the accusations and refuse to give any testimony. Sedrakian will not testify until NSS investigators show him what they consider evidence of his involvement in the apparent assassination attempt, he said. “I can’t understand what my client is to do with that,” he added.

Sedrakian predicted his arrest last month after two men were detained for allegedly shooting and wounding Hayrikian. He said the authorities will exploit the fact that he knows both of them.
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