Armenia’s Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian said on Tuesday that he will not step down following the April 23 resignation of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian whose Republican Party (HHK) nominated him for the post in 2016.
Davtian said that the law-enforcement agency headed by him is independent and must not be affected by the change of the country’s government.
The 39-year-old was appointed as prosecutor-general by the National Assembly in September 2016. The HHK held and still holds the majority of seats in the parliament. He was Yerevan’s chief prosecutor until then.
Opposition lawmakers, including Nikol Pashinian, voted against Davtian at the time. They accused prosecutors of routinely opening politically motivated criminal cases, ensuring the impunity of violent government loyalists and executing other government orders.
Speaking in the parliament on Tuesday, Davtian also defended the April 22 detentions of Pashinian and two other opposition lawmakers who organized nationwide protests against Sarkisian’s attempt to cling to power. He said they were taken into custody for holding “illegal” demonstrations.
“I can assure you that there were no political motives,” he told lawmakers. “Nobody instructed me to do anything. I performed by professional duties.”
Pashinian was detained just hours after a 3-minute tense meeting with Sarkisian held in the presence of journalists. His arrest only stoked the anti-government protests. Pashinian was set free the next day shortly before Sarkisian announced his resignation.
Davtian admitted that then Deputy Prime Minister Karen Karapetian strongly influenced his decision not to ask the parliament to lift Pashinian’s immunity from prosecution and to order his immediate release. He said Karapetian spoke on behalf of the parliament majority.
Davtian told reporters that the criminal cases opened in connection with the Pashinian-led protests have not been closed despite the regime change. Asked whether prosecutors may still press criminal charges against Pashinian, who was elected prime minister on May 8, he said: “We all are equal before the law.”
Davtian also disagreed with Pashinian’s assertions that there are political prisoners in the country. “I regard these differences as normal for a rule-of-law state,” he said.
Pashinian has yet to indicate whether he will press for Davtian’s resignation. He replaced the heads of Armenia’s police and National Security Service one day after taking office.