Armenian law-enforcement authorities have decided not to prosecute a school principal in Gyumri who admitted pressurizing parents of her students to vote for the ruling Republican Party (HHK) in the April 2 parliamentary elections.
Astghik Avetisian was among 134 directors of public schools and kindergartens across Armenia who received phone calls late March from civic activists posing as HHK officials. The vast majority of them admitted drawing up lists of students’ parents as well as their subordinates who pledged to vote for the party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian. The lists were submitted to local government bodies or HHK campaign offices, according to the activists affiliated with the Union of Informed Citizens (UIC).
Avetisian, who runs the Gyumri School No. 37, submitted the longest list containing as many as 1,700 names. In a phone call recorded by the UIC, she said that she and her husband have been “working” with parents and “intimidating them in the worst way” for the past month.
Prosecutors in the Shirak province, of which Gyumri is the capital, launched an investigation after this and other recordings publicized by the UIC caused an uproar.
The chief regional prosecutor, Karen Gabrielian, said on Monday that law-enforcement bodies will not press any charges against Avetisian because they found no apparent “elements of a crime” in her actions.
“That individual interpreted [her phone remarks] as follows: by saying ‘intimidate’ she meant that she said ‘if you don’t vote [for the HHK] you will offend me,’” Gabrielian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The prosecutor said law-enforcement officers have also questioned many of the student parents included on Avetisian’s list and that all of them denied being bullied or threatened by the principal.
Thirty other principals filed a libel suit against the UIC las week. They are seeking a formal apology and a total of 60 million drams ($124,000) in damages.
The lawsuit has been strongly condemned by Armenian civic groups and opposition parties. They say the UIC is being unjustly penalized by the authorities for exposing the illegal use of the HHK’s administrative resources.