Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned Wednesday a lower court’s refusal to sanction the arrest of Gagik Tsarukian, the indicted leader of the main opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).
One of Tsarukian’s lawyers, Samvel Dilbandian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that it ordered a Yerevan district court to hold new hearings on the arrest warrant sought by prosecutors.
Dilbandian insisted that the Court of Appeals stopped short of allowing investigators to arrest Tsarukian.
Tsarukian, who is one of the country’s richest men, was charged with vote buying immediately after the Armenian parliament dominated by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s allies lifted his immunity from prosecution and arrest on June 15. The National Security Service (NSS) said that he “created and led an organized group” that bought more than 17,000 votes for the BHK during parliamentary elections held in 2017.
Tsarukian strongly denies the accusations. He and his party maintain that Pashinian ordered the criminal proceedings in response to the BHK leader’s June 5 calls for the government’s resignation. Pashinian and law-enforcement authorities deny that the case is politically motivated.
The district court refused to allow Tsarukian’s pre-trial arrest on June 21. Both the prosecutors and Tsarukian’s lawyers appealed against that decision. The lawyers objected to the court’s conclusion that investigators have grounds to suspect that Tsarukian handed out vote bribes.
The prosecutors kept pressing for an arrest warrant even after it emerged on June 30 that Tsarukian has been infected with the coronavirus.