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Tsarukian Freed On Bail


Armenia -- Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian arrives for a court hearing in Yerevan, June 21, 2020.

Gagik Tsarukian, a wealthy businessman leading the opposition Prosperous Armenia (BHK), was released on bail on Thursday almost one month after being arrested on charges rejected by him as politically motivated.

A Yerevan court allowed investigators to arrest Tsarukian on September 25 three months after the Armenian parliament dominated by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s allies lifted his legal immunity from prosecution.

The National Security Service (NSS) claims 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 calls for the government’s resignation. Pashinian and law-enforcement authorities deny that the case is politically motivated.

A Yerevan judge refused to allow Tsarukian’s pre-trial arrest on June 21. Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned that decision on July 8, ordering a lower court to hold new hearings on the matter.

A judge of that court sanctioned Tsarukian’s arrest on September 25. The same judge agreed to grant him bail worth 100 million drams ($206,000).

Calls for the release of the head of Armenia’s largest parliamentary opposition force grew after the outbreak of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27. BHK figures and other opposition politicians said that it would strengthen national unity in the face of what see as an existential threat to Armenia and Karabakh.

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