A prosecutor demanded on Friday a suspended two-year prison sentence for the only Armenian official who has been prosecuted so far in connection with serious fraud reported before and during last month’s constitutional referendum.
Zaven Mirijanian, a local government official in Yerevan’s central administrative district, was arrested in late November for allegedly attempting to bribe an opposition member of an election commission into turning a blind eye into a miscounting of ballots to be cast in the December 6 vote.
The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) presented prosecutors with purported video evidence of the bribery attempt.
Mirijanian went on trial on Friday, pleading guilty to the accusation that he offered the commission member affiliated with the HAK to leave a polling station during the ballot count in return for 100,000 drams ($207) in cash. The suspended jail term demanded by a trial prosecutor afterwards means that he will almost certainly avoid imprisonment.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman, said the opposition party would appeal against such a verdict. Zurabian also complained that the 30-minute trial was held under a so-called “accelerated procedure” not involving cross-examination of witnesses and evidence. He said the court thus avoided trying to find out who ordered Mirijanian to bribe the HAK representative.
“Clearly, if they had properly investigated this case they would have had to point the finger at [President] Serzh Sarkisian because Serzh Sarkisian was the main organizer of those widespread falsifications,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The HAK and several other opposition parties claim that the authorities rigged the referendum results to enact controversial amendments to the Armenian constitution widely seen as important for Sarkisian’s political future. Their allegations have been echoed by Armenian civic groups that monitored the referendum. The Armenian authorities insist, however, that the vote was free and free.
Both the EU and the United States have urged the authorities to properly investigate the “credible” allegations. They have warned that failure to do so would compromise the legitimacy of the official referendum results showing a “Yes” vote for Sarkisian’s constitutional changes.
Armenian law-enforcement bodies say they have investigated more than 480 fraud reports and opened over 50 criminal cases in connection with them. Mirijanian is the only person known to have been arrested and prosecuted as a result.