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Armenian Court Upholds Arrest Of Pro-Opposition Doctor


Armenia - Former President Robert Kocharian (R) greets Armen Charchian, director of the Izmirlian Medical Center, during a rally in Yerevan, May 9, 2021.

Armenia’s Court of Appeals on Thursday refused to order the release of an opposition-linked prominent surgeon arrested late last month on charges of pressuring his subordinates to participate in the June 20 parliamentary elections.

Armen Charchian, the director of Yerevan’s Izmirlian Medical Center, was prosecuted after a non-governmental organization publicized a leaked audio recording of his meeting with hospital personnel.

Charchian, who ran for the parliament on the main opposition Hayastan bloc’s ticket, told them that they must vote in the snap elections or face “much tougher treatment” by the hospital management. He was indicted under an article of the Criminal Code that prohibits any coercion of voters.

Charchian rejects the accusations as baseless and politically motivated. Hayastan’s leadership and the Armenian Apostolic Church, which owns the hospital, have repeatedly demanded his release from custody.

The doctor’s lawyers appealed against a lower court’s June 23 decision to allow a law-enforcement agency to arrest him pending investigation.

A Court of Appeals judge, Lusine Abgarian, upheld that decision, drawing a strong condemnation from the lawyers. They claimed that she handed down the ruling under strong pressure from the Armenian government.

“This is a mockery of jurisprudence,” one of the lawyers, Erik Andreasian, told reporters. He insisted that the court and the investigators have “no grounds” hold his client in pre-trial detention.

Aleksanian said earlier that the accusations are groundless because the leaked audio contains only a short excerpt from Charchian’s comments made at the meeting with the Izmirlian Medical Center staff. He said a longer recording submitted by the defense lawyers to the court shows that the hospital chief assured his staffers that he will not resort to “repression” against anyone refusing to go to the polls.

Charchian, 61, was hospitalized and reportedly underwent surgery hours before his arrest. He was taken to Yerevan’s Vartashen prison on July 3.

Hayastan, which finished second in the elections, says that the charges leveled against Charchian are government retribution for his affiliation with the ruling party’s main election challenger.

Supporters of the opposition bloc led by former President Robert Kocharian rallied outside prosecutors’ headquarters in Yerevan on June 24 to demand his release. Similar protests were also staged there by medics from the Izmirlian Center and other hospitals.

Dozens of members and supporters of Hayastan and another major opposition bloc, Paniv Unem, are now prosecuted for allegedly trying to bribe or bully voters. Some of them are also held in detention.

No government loyalist is known to have been arrested on election-related charges so far.

Both opposition blocs claim that public sector employees openly supporting them were harassed and even fired by government officials in the run-up to or right after the elections. They have also accused central and provincial government bodies of forcing their employees to attend the ruling Civil Contract party’s campaign rallies. The authorities deny these claims.

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