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Armenian Opposition Leader Again Arrested


Armenia -- Former National Security Service Director Artur Vanetsian addresses opposition protesters in Yerevan, November 11, 2020.

Artur Vanetsian, a former National Security Service (NSS) director leading an opposition party, was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and overthrow Armenia’s government.

The NSS also arrested several other individuals who it said were also involved in the alleged conspiracy. They included Vahram Baghdasarian, a senior member of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).

In a statement, the NSS claimed to have found large quantities of weapons in a property belonging to another arrested suspect. It said the weapons were due to be used for murdering Pashinian and seizing power.

Vanetsian’s lawyer Lusine Sahakian and Hayrenik (Fatherland) party condemned his arrest as politically motivated. Hayrenik said it is part of the Armenian authorities’ efforts to quell opposition protests against a Russian-mediated ceasefire agreement that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Hayrenik is one of 17 Armenian opposition groups that launched the protests and demanded Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s resignation immediately after the truce went into force on November 10. They accuse Pashinian of capitulating to Azerbaijan and committing high treason.

The authorities say that the protests are illegal, citing martial law declared by them following the outbreak of the war on September 27.

Vanetsian and a dozen other opposition leaders were detained on November 11 for organizing the protests. Armenian courts freed virtually all of them two days later.

Vanetsian, 40, was appointed as head of the NSS immediately the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” that brought Pashinian to power. He quickly became an influential member of Pashinian’s entourage, overseeing high-profile corruption investigations initiated by Armenia’s new leadership.

Vanetsian resigned in September 2019 after falling out with the prime minister. He has since repeatedly accused Pashinian of incompetence and misrule, prompting angry responses from the premier and his political allies.

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