The Armenian police will conduct a probe into an opposition lawmaker’s claim that the country’s authorities have bribed a Council of Europe advisory body for a positive opinion on the planned constitutional changes.
Levon Zurabian, the parliamentary leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), made the accusation involving the Venice Commission during a parliamentary press briefing last Friday. His comments were published by a number of local media.
The opposition member, in particular, said: “There is a narrow circle of those in favor of the changes. These are the ruling party headed by [President] Serzh Sarkisian, the constitutional amendments committee that was established by him and that is headed by Gagik Harutiunian, whose only job has been to bribe the Venice Commission. He has been there for lobbying, and we also have evidence.”
Zurabian also claimed that a number of opposition parties have either been bribed or forced to join the camp of supporters of the controversial amendments that a number of opposition and civic group allege are aimed at “perpetuating” the rule of Sarkisian.
The senior HAK member stopped short of revealing any details immediately, saying that relevant evidence will be published later.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office of Armenia told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that the police’s department combating organized crime has been instructed to “implement verification activities”.
Vahram Baghdasarian, head of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia’s parliamentary faction, said he supported the initiative of the law-enforcement agencies. “If an examination is conducted, I think a corresponding mechanism of responsibility should be applied. If it turns out to be true, then corresponding steps should be taken… But if it turns out to be not substantiated, then I think appropriate action should be taken against the one who made the allegation,” he said.
Zurabian did not immediately respond to this statement. He told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that he will do so when it is “necessary”.
Meanwhile, Armen Martirosian, a senior member of the opposition Heritage party, thinks that starting legal proceedings on the basis of a political statement is an instance of pressure against the opposition. “After all, the Constitution envisages that lawmakers should not have problems in connection with political activities, and this is, naturally, a statement of a political nature. Therefore, I think, it is only being done for black PR,” he said.