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Controversial Ex-Prosecutor Set To Join Armenian Judicial Watchdog


Armenia - Gagik Jahangirian, a parliament deputy from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), at a news conference in Yerevan, 26Sep2012.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step bloc moved on Wednesday to install a former senior prosecutor long criticized by human rights groups as a member of a state body overseeing Armenian courts.

Gagik Jahangirian criticized judges defying law-enforcement bodies as he was formally nominated for a vacant seat in the Supreme Judicial Council.

Jahangirian served as Armenia’s chief military prosecutor from 1997-2006 and was accused by civil activists of covering up crimes and abetting other abuses in the Armenian armed forces throughout his tenure. He always denied those allegations.

My Step’s parliamentary group announced the nomination after meeting with Jahangirian in the National Assembly.

“We consider Mr. Jahangirian a professional in his field and that was key [to his nomination,]” the bloc’s parliamentary leader, Lilit Makunts, told reporters after the meeting.

Under Armenian law, Jahangirian needs to be backed by at least 80 members of the 132-seat parliament in order to join the council empowered to nominate, sanction and even fire judges. My Step controls 83 parliament seats.

Pashinian’s team made the decision despite not only Jahangirian’s controversial reputation but also his past feud with the prime minister. The two men publicly traded insults and recriminations when they were members of the country’s former parliament. In particular, Pashinian accused Jahangirian in 2015 of having secret ties to then President Serzh Sarkisian.

Jahangirian deflected questions about his past relationship with Pashinian when he spoke to journalists.

“I’m not becoming a member of the [ruling] political team,” he said. “I’m going to do professional work. I will be happy to be also nominated by the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party and the Bright Armenia Party.”

Jahangirian was handpicked for the vacant post amid growing tensions between Armenia’s government and judiciary. Some commentators have suggested that Pashinian expects him to help increase government influence on the courts.

In recent months Armenian judges have refused to allow law-enforcement authorities to arrest dozens of opposition leaders and members as well as other anti-government activists. Virtually all of those individuals are prosecuted in connection with angry protests sparked by the Pashinian administration’s handling of the autumn war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Pashinian charged last month that Armenia’s judicial system has become part of a “pseudo-elite” which is trying to topple him after the disastrous war. Ruben Vartazarian, the chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council, rejected the criticism.

By contrast, Jahangirian said on Wednesday that he does not regard Pashinian’s remarks as pressure on the judiciary and strongly disagrees with some court rulings. He specifically denounced judges refusing to allow the pre-trial arrest of individuals facing coup charges.

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