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Prosecutor Again Dismisses Indictment Against Former Armenian Speaker


Armenia -- NA Speaker Ara Babloyan, 30Dec2018

An Armenian prosecutor has again dismissed coup charges brought by another law-enforcement agency against former parliament speaker Ara Babloyan and one of his former senior aides.

The Special Investigative Service (SIS) indicted Babloyan and Arsen Babayan in October as part of a criminal inquiry into Hrayr Tovmasian’s appointment in March 2018 as chairman of Armenia’s Constitutional Court. Babayan was arrested but freed on bail three weeks later.

The SIS claimed 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 Babloyan illegally accepted and announced the resignation of Tovmasian’s predecessor, Gagik Harutiunian, before receiving a relevant letter from him. It said that Babayan, who was the deputy chief of the parliament staff at the time, backdated the letter to enable Tovmasian to head the Constitutional Court before the entry into force of sweeping amendments to the Armenian constitution.

The amendments introduced a six-year term in office for the head of Armenia’s highest court. Tovmasian, 49, became chief court justice under the previous constitution which allows him to hold the post until the age of 70.

Both suspects strongly deny the accusations. Babloyan maintains that Harutiunian’s letter of resignation was dated March 1, 2018 and that he received and signed it on March 2, 2018, not three days later, as is claimed by the SIS.

The SIS announced on December 13 that it has completed the investigation and asked prosecutors to endorse the accusations of “usurpation of state authority” and forgery leveled against the former officials.

The prosecutor overseeing the probe refused to do so and ordered the SIS to conduct an “additional investigation” for properly evaluating Babloyan’s and Babayan’s actions. The SIS again sent the case to the prosecutor for approval last month.

It emerged on Monday that the investigators have been rebuffed for a second time. Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said they should revise the indictment and charge the two former officials with abuse of power, rather than its usurpation. It said the well-known suspects had created an “illusion” of Tovmasian’s lawful appointment as Constitutional Court chairman.

The SIS did not immediately react to the prosecutors’ decision which will further delay Babayan’s and Babloyan’s trial.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian used the high-profile case in his recent verbal attacks on Tovmasian. He said on January 25 that law-enforcement authorities’ allegations that Tovmasian illegally became chief justice shortly before the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” are “effectively proven and irrefutable.”

Tovmasian deplored that claim, saying that Pashinian violated the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Armenian constitution.

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