A court in Yerevan on Friday refused to throw out corruption charges brought against a senior government official who actively participated in Armenia’s “Velvet Revolution.”
The court dismissed defense lawyers’ claims that the National Security Service (NSS) has no right to prosecute Davit Sanasarian because under Armenian law senior officials can only be investigated by another law-enforcement agency.
Sanasarian’s lawyers earlier petitioned the court to suspend his trial and ask Armenia’s Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of the high-profile criminal case. The presiding judge, Davit Balayan, rejected that demand.
Sanasarian was suspended as head of the State Oversight Service (SOS) after being indicted last April in a criminal investigation into alleged corrupt practices within the anti-corruption government agency.
The NSS arrested two other senior SOS officials in February 2019, saying that they attempted to cash in on government-funded supplies of medical equipment to state-run hospitals. They were subsequently set free after pleading guilty to the accusations.
Sanasarian was charged with abusing his powers to help the two men, who are also on trial, enrich themselves and a private company linked to them. He strongly denies the charges.
The trial prosecutor, Gevorg Sargsian, said during Friday’s court hearing that Sanasarian knew that the company in question, Zorashen, is controlled by one of the two other defendants, Samvel Adian, and is planning to import expensive equipment for hemodialysis, a treatment of kidney failure. Sanasarian and Adian abused their position to make sure that two hospitals buy such equipment from Zorashen, according to the indictment read out by Sargsian.
Sanasarian insisted that he was not aware of that. He said Adian had assured him that he is not linked to the supplier.
Sanasarian, 35, is a former opposition and civic activist who had for years accused Armenia’s former leaders of corruption. He was actively involved in the 2018 revolution.
Sanasarian’s supporters, among them leaders of some Western-funded civic groups, have voiced support for him and denounced the NSS. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian hit back at the critics last year. He said that they place their personal relationships with Sanasarian above the rule of law.