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The National Security Service (NSS) confirmed on Friday the arrest of an Armenian judge accused of bribery.

The NSS said that Khachatur Khachatrian of a court of first instance in the northern Lori province was caught red-handed on Thursday while taking $20,000 from a local businessman involved in a civil case. A spokesman for the feared security agency claimed that Khachatrian demanded the kickback in return for ruling in favor of the unnamed businessman.

Khachatrian defense lawyer, Karen Tumanian, commented ambiguously on the allegation. “I don’t deny or confirm it,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But he did not actually receive the officially specified amount of money.”

It was also not clear whether the detained judge will formally protest his innocence. Tumanian said only that his client has declined to give testimony to NSS investigators so far. The judge was not formally charged as of Friday evening, according to him.

Corruption within the Armenian judiciary has long been perceived to be a serious problem. However, judges are rarely prosecuted on corruption charges.

Armenian courts are also thought to be dependent on the government and law-enforcement bodies. They rarely rule against prosecutors criminal cases.

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