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Indicted Ex-Speaker Allowed To Leave Armenia


RUSSIA -- Armenian parliament speaker Ara Babloyan gives a press conference in St. Petersburg, April 13, 2018

Former parliament speaker Ara Babloyan was allowed by a Yerevan court on Monday to temporarily leave Armenia despite standing trial on charges rejected by him as politically motivated.

Babloyan said he needs to travel to Belgium on a short trip related to his current work as head of Armenia’s largest children’s hospital.

“I’m glad that I received permission to leave because [the trip] is necessary not for me but our country, our people and those children who are treated at the Arabkir Medical Center,” he told reporters. He said he will return to the country on October 4, well before the next session of his trial slated for November 18.

Babloyan’s lawyer, Aram Vartevanian, said trial prosecutors did not object to the permission granted by the judge presiding over the trial.

In Vartevanian’s words, the judge had already allowed his client to travel to Switzerland earlier this year. The 72-year-old pediatric surgeon cancelled that trip because of the coronavirus pandemic and his hospital’s involvement in the Armenian authorities’ efforts to contain it, said the lawyer.

Babloyan and one of his former aides, 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 defendants strongly deny the accusations. Babloyan, who served as parliament speaker from 2017-2018, claimed to be subjected to “crude political persecution” at the start of their trial in May. He accused the SIS of committing “pathetic and blatant violations” of the due process.

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