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Armenian Authorities Deny Bullying High Court Judges


Armenia -- Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan (second from left) and Constitutional Court Chairman Hrayr Tovmasian (left) attend a Christmas mass at St. Gregory the Illuminator's Cathedral in Yerevan, January 6, 2020.

The Armenian authorities have strongly denied media claims that they will use repressive methods and even blackmail in a bid to force the chairman and other members of Armenia’s Constitutional Court to resign.

Citing an unnamed government source, the “Hraparak” daily said late last week that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has given the heads of Armenia’s law-enforcement agencies one week to ensure those resignations. It claimed that at a “secret” meeting in Yerevan Pashinian discussed with them various ways of achieving that, including pressure on close relatives of the Constitutional Court judges.

Another newspaper critical of Pashinian’s government, “168 Zham” alleged afterwards that the Armenian police possess secretly filmed video evidence of extramarital affairs involving two unnamed members of the court. The police will threaten to publicize that compromising material if the judges refuse to step down, claimed the paper.

A spokesman for Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian flatly denied those “false reports” at the weekend, saying that they are aimed at “discrediting” the country’s top law-enforcement officials.

“I find it necessary to inform that there was no such meeting, especially with such an agenda and especially with the participation of Armenia’s prosecutor-general,” Gor Abrahamian wrote on Facebook.

Ararat Mirzoyan, the Armenian parliament speaker and a close associate of Pashinian, shrugged off the allegations on Monday. “I don’t have time to comment on any fictitious theories,” he said.

Davtian charged Constitutional Court Chairman Hrayr Tovmasian with two counts of abuse of power late last month. The chief prosecutor’s office said Tovmasian unlawfully privatized an office in Yerevan and forced state notaries to rent other offices de facto belonging to him when he served as justice minister from 2010-2014.

Tovmasian was quick to reject the accusations as politically motivated. He claimed that the Armenian government warned him this summer that he will be indicted if he refuses to step down.

Mirzoyan brushed aside that claim, saying that Tovmasian would have been prosecuted even if he had resigned. “The criminal case is not to do with his [current] tenure,” he told reporters.

The speaker also insisted that Pashinian’s political team is not desperate to get rid of Tovmasian and six other judges of the nine-member Constitutional Court who were installed by the country’s former governments. “It’s not that we go to bed and wake up thinking only about this issue and that our supreme goal is to oust Hrayr Tovmasian from the Constitutional Court,” he said.

Pashinian implicitly demanded the resignation of the high court judges in August. He accused them of maintaining links with Armenia’s former leadership and impeding reforms which he says are aimed at creating a “truly independent judiciary.”

Pashinian’s critics say that he is on the contrary seeking to gain control over all Armenian courts and thus tighten his grip on power.

Tovmasian was indicted on December 27 one day after President Armen Sarkissian signed into law a controversial government bill giving the seven Constitutional Court judges financial incentives to resign before the end of their mandate.

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