Constitutional Court Chairman Hrayr Tovmasian has said that he will not step down despite facing criminal charges and growing pressure from Armenia’s political leadership.
“What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger,” Tovmasian told 168.am in a video interview posted late on Tuesday. “I will not respect myself if I back away, for the reasons mentioned by you, from the issues, the mission assigned to me.”
“You would not respect me, nobody would respect me [in that case,] and I would consider that a humiliation,” he said, adding that he will therefore “fight to the end” in the increasingly acrimonious standoff.
The remarks followed a series of renewed verbal attacks on him launched by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. Speaking at a weekend news conference, Pashinian labeled Tovmasian as a “representative of the corrupt former regime” who “offered his services” and cozied up to him following the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.”
Pashinian went on to state that law-enforcement authorities’ allegations that Tovmasian illegally became the head of Armenia highest court shortly before the revolution are “effectively proven and irrefutable.”
Tovmasian deplored that claim, saying that Pashinian violated the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Armenian constitution.
“Are you a court?” he said, appealing to the premier. “Are you an investigator? Where did you get such information from to determine [Tovmasian’s guilt?] What will you do when national or international courts rule tomorrow that none of that happened?”
“If they want to pressure me in this way then I have to say that … they should not try in vain,” he added.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) claimed in October that the former Armenian parliament elected Tovmasian court chairman as a result of an illegal seizure of the judicial authority by a “group of officials.” It said that took the form of forgery committed by former parliament speaker Ara Babloyan and one of his top staffers. Both men strongly deny relevant accusations leveled against them.
In late December, a senior prosecutor declined to endorse those accusations, ordering the SIS to conduct an “additional investigation.”
A few days later, Tovmasian was indicted on other, unrelated charges. Prosecutors said that he unlawfully privatized an office in Yerevan and forced state notaries to rent other premises “de facto” belonging to him when he served as Armenia’s justice minister from 2010-2014. Tovmasian rejects the accusations as baseless and politically motivated.
The chief justice also indicated in his latest interview that he may backpedal on his stated decision to file a defamation lawsuit against Pashinian.
“Maybe I got emotional at that point and spoke of going to court,” he said. “But I think that everything has become clear to the public and everyone now has the answer to that question. I will again talk to my legal team and decide.”