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Another Referendum Official Fined For Fraud


Armenia - An official opens a ballot box after the end of voting in a constitutional referendum, Yerevan, 6Dec2015.

Armenia - An official opens a ballot box after the end of voting in a constitutional referendum, Yerevan, 6Dec2015.

A court in Yerevan on Friday fined yet another government loyalist 500,000 drams ($1,000) for serious fraud committed during last December’s referendum on President Serzh Sarkisian’s constitutional reform.

Hasmik Hovannisian, who was a senior member of a precinct election commission in Yerevan, admitted forging referendum-related documents and illegally casting multiple ballots marked in favor of the controversial amendments to the Armenian constitution.

“Do you feel remorse for your actions?” the presiding judge asked Hovannisian. “Yes, I do,” she replied.

The brief hearing was held under a so-called “accelerated procedure” that did not require questioning of witnesses and close examination of the defendant’s motives. Both Hovannisian and her lawyer refused to comment after the announcement of the verdict. It thus remained unclear whether she falsified referendum results in her precinct on her own or followed others’ orders.

The trials of more than a dozen other government supporters prosecuted for referendum-related irregularities so far followed the same pattern. Virtually all of those individuals were fined 500,000 drams.

As of last month, law-enforcement authorities opened 68 criminal cases and charged 32 individuals in connection with referendum fraud.

Opposition leaders, who consider the referendum to have been rigged, have dismissed these fraud cases as publicity stunts. They say that neither the prosecutors nor courts have even attempted to identify masterminds. The authorities, they claim, are only imitating anti-fraud measures in response to serious concerns voiced by the United States and the European Union in the wake of the December 6 vote.

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