Prosecutors have appealed against court decisions to release the director of Armenia’s main maternity hospital and two other individuals accused of arranging illegal adoptions of Armenian children by foreigners.
The hospital chief, Razmik Abrahamian, his deputy Arshak Jerjerian, the director of a Yerevan-based state orphanage, Liana Karapetian, and the two other suspects were arrested in mid-December as part of a criminal investigation launched by the National Security Service earlier in 2019.
In a November statement, the NSS claimed to have found evidence that three dozen Armenian children were illegally adopted by Italian nationals who paid hefty bribes. In particular, it said, in 2016-2018 several officials used threats, blackmail and lies to convince over a dozen pregnant (and presumably unmarried) women to abandon their expected children.
According to the statement, immediately after their birth the children were taken to state-run orphanages whose senior employees later arranged their adoption by foreigners through forgery of their medical records and other violations of adoption rules set by the state. The NSS said that members of the crime ring made sure that Armenian citizens could not adopt the babies.
Another law-enforcement agency, the Investigative Committee, brought corresponding criminal charges against the five suspects. They all were released from custody a few days later, however.
In particular, a Yerevan district court refused to allow investigators to hold Abrahamian in pre-trial detention. The other detained individuals were freed on bail.
A spokesman for the Office of the Prosecutor-General said on Thursday that it has asked Armenia’s Court of Appeals to overturn the lower court decisions relating to Abrahamian, Karapetian and another suspect. He said the prosecutors may also appeal against the release of the remaining suspects.
Most of those individuals are understood to deny the accusations of bribery and illegal separation of children from their mothers or child trafficking leveled against them.
Abrahamian, 76, was already charged in April with giving a bribe to then Deputy Health Minister Arsen Davtian. Unlike Davtian, who was reportedly caught red-handed in his office, the veteran doctor was not arrested at the time.
According to government data, a total of 54 Armenian children were adopted by foreign nationals, most of them Italians and Americans, from 2016-2018.