Aghvan Hovsepian, Armenia’s influential prosecutor-general, resigned on Friday after 15 years in office that have been marked by allegations of serious human rights violations made by opposition and civic groups.
Hovsepian, 60, was relieved of his duties after President Serzh Sarkisian did not appoint him for another five-year term.
Hovsepian’s resignation has been anticipated by some observers since Sarkisian publicly and harshly criticized the Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement body subordinate to prosecutors, earlier this year. Andranik Mirzoyan, the SIS chief close to Hovsepian, was sacked as a result.
Sarkisian met Hovsepian and thanked him for his long tenure on Thursday. The president expressed hope that his work experience will remain of use to Armenian law-enforcement authorities . He has yet to announce who will replace the chief prosecutor.
Hovsepian declined to speculate about his likely successor as he spoke to journalists at a farewell ceremony held outside the Office of the Prosecutor-General and attended by its employees. He was also coy about the possibility of remaining in the state apparatus in a different capacity. “We will still work together,” he said without elaborating.
Hovsepian was first named prosecutor-general shortly after former President Robert Kocharian took office in 1998. He has since been one of the country’s most powerful state officials. He has influenced political processes through his Nig-Aparan organization uniting prominent natives of a district in central Armenia.
Hovsepian has also played a key role in government crackdowns on the opposition, notably the deadly suppression of 2008 post-election protests in Yerevan. Dozens of opposition members and supporters were jailed on highly controversial charges at the time.
Hovsepian infamously declared that former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition candidate in the February 2008 presidential election, resorted to a mass hypnosis Armenia’s population to muster popular support for regime change. His theory about opposition recourse to the so-called “neuro-linguistic programming” (NLP) was part of a coup case brought by the Armenian authorities’ in the wake of the disputed ballot.
Armenian prosecutors have also faced allegations of corruption and gross violations of the due process from local and international human rights groups. Armenian courts rarely make decisions going against prosecutors’ wishes.
Hovsepian strongly defended his track record on Friday, saying that “reforms” implemented by his agency have strengthened justice in the country. He also hinted at his continued involvement in the political life.
“I will continue my public activities more vigorously because unfortunately there are many people in our society who spew venom,” Hovsepian said. “Their number is growing day by day. What I have been doing is simply an antidote against the poisoning of our society.”