A court in Yerevan began on Thursday the trial of former parliament speaker Ara Babloyan and one of his former aides who are facing criminal charges rejected by them as politically motivated.
Babloyan and Arsen Babayan were charged last October with abusing their powers and forging documents to help Armenia’s former leadership install Hrayr Tovmasian as chairman of the Constitutional Court in March 2018. Babayan was arrested but freed on bail three weeks later.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) indicted the two men as Tovmasian faced growing government pressure to resign. It claimed that the former Armenian parliament elected him court chairman in breach of the country’s constitution.
The SIS 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.
In a statement issued ahead of the first court hearing in the case, Babayan charged that he and the former speaker are subjected to “crude political persecution” and will expose during their trial “pathetic and blatant violations” of the due process committed by investigators.
The SIS and prosecutors deny any political motives behind the criminal case.