Gagik Tsarukian, the leader of the main opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), questioned on Tuesday criminal proceedings launched against Hrayr Tovmasian, the Constitutional Court chairman increasingly at loggerheads with the country’s leadership.
Tsarukian challenged law-enforcement authorities to present evidence of abuses allegedly committed by Tovmasian. He condemned them for interrogating the latter’s daughters.
“Let them present proof that he had committed some crimes,” Tsarukian told reporters. “We all would support punishing him [in that case.] We are not in favor of crimes.”
“But as an Armenian, as a family man, seeing a 16-year-old or 18-year-old girl summoned for interrogation over some abuses is unacceptable to me,” he said. “With their actions, they [investigators] are embarrassing the prime minister. If these people want to show something, then they are not fit for their jobs.”
Tovmasian’s daughters as well as father were questioned by the National Security Service (NSS). The NSS said it suspected that they had not submitted accurate asset declarations to a state body. It said it is also investigating a possible misuse of government funds allocated by the Armenian Justice Ministry at a time when it was headed by Tovmasian.
Another law-enforcement body, the Special Investigative Committee (SIS), is probing a possible “usurpation of power” by Tovmasian. Both inquiries were announced two days after the Constitutional Court rejected the Armenian parliament’s demands to replace its chairman installed by the country’s former leadership.
The BHK refused to back a corresponding parliamentary resolution drafted by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step bloc. Tsarukian said on October 2 that the bloc has come up with “very weak” arguments in support of its bid to oust Tovmasian.
“Let them bring out evidence of [Tovmasian’s] illegitimacy and we will say he is not legitimate,” the BHK leader said on Tuesday. He said that so far he has seen only “empty talk.”
While criticizing the authorities, Tsarukian stopped short of explicitly backing the former ruling HHK party’s claims that the criminal cases against Tovmasian are politically motivated.
Pashinian dismissed those claims through a spokesman on Monday. The parliamentary leader of his bloc, Lilit Makunts, likewise insisted that Tovmasian is not subjected to “political persecution.”
“I hope that law-enforcement bodies are acting within the bounds of powers and functions which they are supposed to have, and I hope that they engage [people] in the investigations on the basis of legal facts and corroborations,” said Makunts.