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Another Oppositionist Freed


Armenia- Vahram Baghdasarian speaks to journalists after his release from custody, Yerevan, November 16, 2020

A court in Yerevan ordered on Monday the release of another opposition figure arrested on coup charges at the weekend.

The suspect, Vahram Baghdasarian, is a senior member of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).

Baghdasarian, former National Security Service (NSS) Director Artur Vanetsian and another man, Ashot Minasian, were charged with plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and overthrow Armenia’s government following the war with Azerbaijan. They all reject the accusations as politically motivated.

The court refused to allow the NSS to keep Baghdasarian under arrest pending investigation into the alleged coup plot. Vanetsian was freed by another judge late on Sunday.

By contrast, Minasian was remanded in pre-trial custody. The NSS claimed on Saturday to have found large quantities of weapons in a property belonging to him.

The security service went on to publicize what it described as audio of Minasian’s wiretapped phone conversations with Baghdasarian and another oppositionist, during which they blamed Pashinian for the unsuccessful war and seemingly discussed ways of assassinating him and seizing power.

Speaking shortly after his release, Baghdasarian claimed that the recordings were doctored and “taken out of context” by investigators.

“I have nothing to hide and made this clear in the court,” he told reporters before joining another anti-government rally held in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on later in the day.

The former ruling HHK and Vanetsian’s Hayrenik (Fatherland) party are among 17 opposition groups that launched on November 10 street protests against the terms of a Russian-mediated ceasefire agreement that stopped the Karabakh war. They accuse Pashinian of capitulating to Azerbaijan and demand his resignation. The prime minister has dismissed the accusations.

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