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Opposition Bloc Again Condemns ‘Political’ Arrests


Armenia - Former President Robert Kocharian (R) and senior members of his Hayastan alliance, Vahe Hakobian (L) and Ishkhan Saghatelian, at an election campaign rally in Yerevan, June 9, 2021.

Former President Robert Kocharian's Hayastan alliance on Tuesday strongly condemned the arrests of four heads of local communities affiliated with it, saying that the Armenian authorities are trying to suppress the country’s leading opposition force.

Senior members of the bloc dismissed as politically motivated criminal charges brought against the officials running towns and villages in Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province.

Two of those mayors, Manvel Paramazian and Mkhitar Zakarian, were elected to the parliament on the Hayastan ticket in the snap elections held on June 20.

Paramazian, who runs the industrial town of Kajaran, was arrested last week on charges of vote buying and fraud while Zakarian is accused of illegally arranging the privatization of a plot of land in his community comprising two other Syunik towns and surrounding villages. Zakarian resigned as community head three days before being taken into custody on Monday.

The two other arrested persons ran villages close to the town of Goris. Law-enforcement authorities claim that financial aid allocated by them to local residents amounted to vote bribes.

All four officials deny the accusations. Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, said on Tuesday that he has sent a fact-finding team to Syunik to look into allegations that law-enforcement bodies are using threats to clinch false incriminating testimonies against the village chiefs.

“We believe that this is political persecution, political repression and political terror,” said Vahe Hakobian, a former Syunik governor whose Resurgent Armenia party set up the Hayastan bloc together with Kocharian and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).

“Political persecutions are continuing and we will fight against them by all means to prevent them from breaking up our people’s resistance and isolating our supporters with trumped-up accusations,” Dashnaktsutyun’s Ishkhan Saghatelian said for his part.

“If it were up to Nikol [Pashinian] he would arrest all 270,000 citizens who voted for us,” Saghatelian told a joint news conference with Hakobian. “It’s evident that they will try to continue the repressions but … they don’t realize that this will not subdue us or stop our struggle.”

During the election campaign Pashinian pledged to wage “political vendettas” against village and town mayors supporting the opposition.

One of the prime minister’s close associates, Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures Suren Papikian, denied on Tuesday that the accusations leveled against the arrested Syunik officials are politically motivated.

Papikian, who oversee local administrations, also said: “There can be no repressions because only the people can carry out repressions, make decisions. The people made their decision on June 20.”

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