A senior government official who actively participated in Armenia’s “Velvet Revolution” went on trial Monday on corruption charges strongly denied by him.
Davit Sanasarian, the head of the State Oversight Service (SOS), was indicted in April in a criminal investigation into alleged corrupt practices within the anti-corruption government agency.
The National Security Service (NSS) arrested two other senior SOS officials in February, saying that they attempted to cash in on government-funded supplies of medical equipment to three hospitals.
Sanasarian was charged with abusing his powers to help the two men enrich themselves and a private company linked to them. The official, who was suspended as SOS chief as a result, rejected the accusations as “fabricated.”
Sanasarian repeated his vehement denials at the start of his trial in a district court in Yerevan. He said that he has been prosecuted illegally.
Sanasarian’s lawyers petitioned the court to try their client separately from the two other suspects also standing trial. They also said that he must be reinstated as head of the SOS. The presiding judge, Davit Balayan, rejected both demands.
One of the defense lawyers, Inesa Petrosian, went on to demand at the end of the fist session of the trial that Balayan drop the charges leveled against Sanasarian. She claimed that the NSS investigation was marked by serious violations of Armenian law.
The judge scheduled the next court hearing in the high-profile case for November 27.
Sanasarian, 35, is a former opposition and civic activist who had for years accused Armenia’s former leaders of corruption. He was actively involved in last year’s revolution.
Sanasarian’s supporters, among them leaders of some Western-funded civic groups, have voiced support for him and denounced the NSS. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian hit back at the critics in April. He said that they place their personal relationships with Sanasarian above the rule of law.