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Authorities In Fresh Bid To Arrest Armenian Oppositionists


Armenia -- Former National Security Service Director Artur Vanetsian speaks at an opposition rally in Yerevan, November 21, 2020.

Armenian prosecutors have appealed against courts’ decisions to free former National Security Service (NSS) Director Artur Vanetsian and two other opposition figures facing coup charges denied by them.

Vanetsian, a senior member of the former ruling Republican Party (HHK), Vahram Baghdasarian, and two other men were detained ten days ago amid anti-government protests in Yerevan sparked by an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement that stopped the war in Nagorno-Karabakh on November 10. The NSS charged them with plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and overthrow Armenia’s government.

All four oppositionists were released from custody in the following days. Yerevan courts of first instance refused to allow investigators to hold them in pre-trial detention.

A spokesperson for the prosecutors told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Tuesday that they have asked the Court of Appeals to overturn the lower court decisions regarding Vanetsian, Baghdasarian and Ashot Avagian, who is affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). The official indicated that they are also likely to challenge the release of the fourth suspect, Ashot Minasian.

Minasian is the commander of a volunteer militia from the southeastern town of Sisian that took part in the six-week war. The NSS claimed on November 14 to have found large quantities of weapons and ammunition 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 Avagian, during which they blamed Pashinian for the unsuccessful war and purportedly discussed ways of assassinating him and seizing power.

Baghdasarian claimed after his release that the recordings were doctored and “taken out of context” by investigators. He and the three other oppositionists say that the coup charges leveled against them are politically motivated.

Vanetsian’s Hayrenik (Fatherland) party, the former ruling HHK and Dashnaktsutyun are among 16 opposition groups that launched on November 10 street protests against the terms of the ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia. They accuse Pashinian of capitulating to Azerbaijan and demand his resignation. The prime minister has dismissed the accusations.

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