Gagik Jahangirian, an opposition lawmaker who had served as Armenia’s chief military prosecutor, on Tuesday pointedly declined to refute rumors that he will be offered to become the state human rights ombudsman.
The position has been vacant since the surprise resignation of its last holder, Karen Andreasian, which was announced earlier this month.
Under the Armenian constitution, Andreasian’s successor is to be elected by the National Assembly. Some Armenian media have claimed that the parliament’s pro-government majority could offer the job to Jahangirian.
The lawmaker affiliated with the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) would not say whether he has received such an offer when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Tuesday.
Asked whether he would be ready to serve as human rights defender, Jahangirian said: “I had never imagined myself becoming a parliament deputy. But as you can see, I’m now a parliament deputy. I hadn’t imagined myself in other roles as well. But life forced me [to take on those roles.]”
He refused to comment further.
Vahram Baghdasarian, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), only added to the speculation, saying that Jahangirian has the necessary skills and “practical experience” to fight against human rights abuses. Baghdasarian said the HHK will consider the oppositionist’s candidacy if he shows an interest in the post of ombudsman.
Aram Manukian, a senior HAK member, insisted, meanwhile, that Jahangirian will not be offered to become ombudsman. “Forget about it,” Manukian told reporters. “There is no such thing.”
“I’m more than confident that Gagik Jahangirian would not even consider that,” he said.
Jahangirian, 60, worked as chief military prosecutor from 1997-2006 and was accused by civil activists of covering up crimes and abetting other abuses in the Armenian armed forces throughout his tenure. He always denied those allegations.
Jahangirian was Armenia’s deputy prosecutor-general when he publicly accused the authorities of rigging the February 2008 presidential election and voiced support for the main opposition candidate, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, in the wake of the disputed ballot. He was promptly sacked and arrested on charges of resisting police officers when they ambushed his car outside Yerevan.
Jahangirian was subsequently sentenced to three years in prison on corresponding charges denounced by Ter-Petrosian’s HAK as politically motivated. He was released from prison, along with other Ter-Petrosian loyalists, in July 2009 in a general amnesty declared by the authorities.