A deputy chief of the Armenian police has been sacked for publicly objecting to a bill that would allow political appointees to run the law-enforcement agency.
Armenian law has until now required the heads of the police and the National Security Service (NSS) to be high-ranking career officers. Legal amendments drafted by the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK) and passed by the parliament in the first reading last month would remove this requirement. They stipulate that any Armenian national, who is aged 25 or older and has lived in the country for the last four years, could be appointed as police or NSS chief by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Colonel Hovannes Kocharian, the deputy chief of the national police service, told reporters on Tuesday that the police oppose the proposed amendments because they are based on “political expediency.”
“The view of the police does not correspond to that of the authors of this bill,” Kocharian told reporters. He dismissed the authors' arguments that the police will be more accountable to the parliament if they are run by outsiders.
President Armen Sarkissian relieved Kocharian of his duties on Thursday in a decree requested by Pashinian. The prime minister’s spokesman, Vladimir Karapetian, said the police official was fired because of making a “political statement.”
“The prime minister has stated on many occasions that the police and army servicemen must stay away from politics and must not make statements of political character,” Karapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The National Assembly was widely expected to pass the LHK bill in the second reading earlier on Thursday. However, it failed to do so after last-minute objections voiced by Vladimir Vartanian, the pro-government chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs.
Vartanian said that the bill needs to undergo some changes before it can become a law. He did not elaborate on those changes.
The police and NSS chiefs, Valeri Osipian and Artur Vanetsian, were forced by Pashinian to resign last month for still unclear reasons. Both agencies have been headed by interim heads since then. Pashinian has yet to decide who will run them on a permanent basis.