A leading member of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) expressed concern on Wednesday about criminal proceedings launched in recent weeks against several former senior officials or their relatives.
Davit Harutiunian singled out an arrest warrant issued by the Special Investigative Service (SIS) for former Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian (no relation).
The SIS accused the latter on Tuesday of illegally using the armed forces against opposition protesters in the wake of a disputed presidential election held in February 2008.
Davit Harutiunian said that the case against the retired army general is unconstitutional because he was charged under an article of the Criminal Code that went into force in 2009. He argued that Armenian laws cannot be enforced retroactively.
“This haste as a result of which the constitution is violated is inadmissible,” the former justice minister told reporters. “I am sorry to point that out. I hope that our law-enforcement bodies will operate more carefully because with such work they depreciated other efforts.”
The head of the SIS, Sasun Khachatrian, dismissed the criticism. He insisted that the former defense chief, who has apparently left Armenia, stands accused of something which was also a criminal offense before 2009.
Davit Harutiunian was also concerned about high-profile criminal cases opened against other former officials mostly suspected or accused of corruption. He said law-enforcement authorities seem to be deliberately targeting those individuals.
“I can clearly see single-minded efforts directed at certain individuals,” said the senior HHK figure. “Some things testify to that. For example, they took away legally owned weapons for an examination. As a person familiar with the [law-enforcement] system, I am bewildered by that because bullet samples fired from every legally owned gun are kept in a database and there is no need for such an examination.”
Harutiunian seemed to refer to the brief detention late last month of a controversial brother of former President Serzh Sarkisian. Aleksandr Sarkisian was freed several hours after being taken into police custody on suspicion of illegal arms possession.
Still, Harutiunian was careful not to explicitly describe this and other cases as politically motivated. “I will give an assessment when processes go a bit further,” he said.
Supporters of Armenia’s new government consider the criminal cases as proof that many members of the previous HHK-led government were involved in corruption and other abuses of power.