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Kocharian Lawyer Denies Secret Contacts With High Court Chief


Armenia - Aram Orbelian, a lawyer for former President Robert Kocharian, talks to journalists, Yerevan, April 5, 2019.

A lawyer for Armenia’s jailed former President Robert Kocharian on Tuesday denied maintaining secret contacts with Constitutional Court Chairman Hrayr Tovmasian alleged by a close associate of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

Deputy parliament speaker Alen Simonian claimed on Monday that the lawyer, Aram Orbelian, has repeatedly visited the court building in Yerevan and discussed with Tovmasian the criminal case against Kocharian. He said Tovmasian made sure that those visits are not recorded in the court’s visitor logbook.

Simonian’s allegations came amid the latest war of words between Pashinian and Tovmasian. The latter is under growing government pressure to resign. Pashinian and his political allies have accused Tovmasian, among other things, of secretly supporting the ex-president, who is standing trial on coup and corruption charges strongly denied by him.

The chief of the Constitutional Court staff, Edgar Ghazarian, disputed Simonian’s allegations and challenged the pro-government vice-speaker to substantiate them. He said that the Armenian police, which guard the court building, have full information about who visited it and when.

“I have never seen Mr. Orbelian at the Constitutional Court,” insisted Ghazarian.

Orbelian declined, for his part, to directly respond to Simonian. But he did say that he stands by his relevant comments made in a June 2019 interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

The lawyer admitted at the time that he is related to Tovmasian. But he insisted that he has not visited the court building ever since Kocharian’s legal team began considering asking the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of the charges brought against the ex-president.

Pashinian makes no secret of his desire to see Tovmasian and most other Constitutional Court judges replaced, having accused them of maintaining ties to Armenia’s former leaders and hampering his judicial reforms. Pashinian’s critics say that he is keen to gain control over the high court and thus tighten his hold on power.

The prime minister told reporters on Tuesday that the standoff “will be resolved soon.” He did not elaborate.

An Armenian law-enforcement agency indicted Tovmasian late last month on charges of abuse of power which the chief justice rejects as politically motivated.

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