A court in Yerevan on Wednesday refused to suspend the trial of a senior government official who actively participated in Armenia’s “Velvet Revolution” and is now facing corruption charges.
The official, Davit Sanasarian, was suspended as head of the State Oversight Service (SOS) after being 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. They were subsequently set free after pleading guilty to the accusations.
Sanasarian was charged with abusing his powers to help the two men enrich themselves and a private company linked to them. He strongly denies the charges.
Sanasarian, the two other SOS officials as well as the company’s accountant went on trial on October 28.
Sanasarian’s lawyers petitioned the district court to suspend the trial and ask Armenia’s Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of the high-profile criminal case. They claimed that an NSS department that conducted the probe was formed in breach of Armenia’s constitution and laws.
Davit Balayan, the judge presiding over the trial, rejected the demand. He said that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian approved the current structure and statutes of the NSS division in accordance with an Armenian law on security services.
Speaking to journalists in the courtroom, Sanasarian stood by his claims that the criminal proceedings against him were “guided” by Artur Vanetsian, the former NSS director sacked in September. He also again blamed Health Minister Arsen Torosian for the “fabricated” charges.
It was Torosian who asked the NSS to investigate the SOS officials’ intervention inthe selection of companies supplying expensive equipment for hemodialysis, a treatment of kidney failure. The security service charged afterwards that they wanted to make sure that a company controlled by them wins tenders for these supplies financed by the government. Vanetsian repeatedly insisted that the accusations are substantiated.
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 that brought Pashinian to power.
Sanasarian’s supporters, among them leaders of some Western-funded civic groups, have voiced support for him and denounced the NSS. Pashinian hit back at the critics in April. He said that they place their personal relationships with Sanasarian above the rule of law.