Several other opposition forces have joined the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) in condemning as politically motivated criminal proceedings launched against its leader Gagik Tsarukian.
The National Security Service (NSS) interrogated Tsarukian for more than eight hours on Sunday after searching his home and announcing the launch of three separate criminal investigations into the wealthy businessman heading Armenia’s largest parliamentary opposition party.
Tsarukian and his associates denounced the crackdown as government retribution for the BHK leader’s recent strong criticism of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and demands for his resignation.
The Bright Armenia Party (LHK), the second opposition group represented in the parliament, likewise said on Monday that the country’s political leadership ordered the criminal proceedings in a bid to “silence” a key political opponent.
“The Bright Armenia Party strongly condemns criminal prosecutions resulting from political expediency and carried out through a selective enforcement of the law,” read a statement issued by the party leadership.
The LHK also criticized the Armenian police for detaining at least 252 BHK supporters who protested against the NSS actions against Tsarukian outside the NSS headquarters in Yerevan. The police argue that the demonstration was illegal because it was held during a coronavirus-related state of emergency in the country.
Other opposition groups, which are not represented in the National Assembly, condemned the crackdown in even stronger terms. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) claimed that it is part of Pashinian’s attempts to “establish dictatorship.” The recently formed Hayrenik (Fatherland) party of former NSS Director Artur Vanetsian accused the authorities of “fabricating” the cases against Tsarukian.
A Dashnaktsutyun leader, Ishkhan Saghatelian, confirmed that he hosted on Sunday a meeting with senior representatives of the BHK, Hayrenik and two other opposition parties that discussed the latest developments in Armenia. The LHK did not take part in the talks.
Saghatelian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that despite their overall “mutual understanding” the participants did not reach any concrete agreements. “We will meet again if need be,” he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Office of Prosecutor-General insisted on Monday that the controversial investigations into Tsarukian’s business activities are not politically motivated. Pashinian also denied through his press secretary issuing any orders to the investigators.