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Opposition Politician Goes On Trial


Armenia - Opposition politician Vazgen Manukian attends the opening session of his trial in Yerevan, July 20, 2021.

Vazgen Manukian, a veteran politician who led anti-government protests staged by the Armenian opposition this winter, went on trial on Tuesday, accused of calling for a violent overthrow of the constitutional order.

The accusation carrying up to three years in prison stems from a statement which Manukian made during a February 20 rally held in Yerevan by a coalition of opposition forces that tried to topple Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian following the autumn war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“We must be ready for revolting and taking power at lightning speed,” he told opposition supporters. He described that as “Plan B” of the opposition campaign for Pashinian’s resignation involving peaceful protests.

“We will follow Plan A but must always be ready for Plan B,” said the 75-year-old politician whom the now defunct opposition grouping nominated as an interim prime minister in December.

Law-enforcement authorities indicted Manukian in early March, saying that he publicly advocated a violent seizure of power. They refrained from arresting him pending investigation.

ARMENIA -- Armenian opposition leader Vazgen Manukian delivers a speech during a rally to demand the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in Yerevan, March 1, 2021
ARMENIA -- Armenian opposition leader Vazgen Manukian delivers a speech during a rally to demand the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in Yerevan, March 1, 2021

Manukian again dismissed the accusation at the start of his trial in Yerevan. He said that his February 20 statement was “much softer” than what Pashinian did during the recent parliamentary election campaign.

Manukian said that Pashinian has not been prosecuted for brandishing a hammer, threatening his political opponents and pledging to “purge” the state bureaucracy and wage “political vendettas” against local government officials supporting the opposition.

A senior prosecutor insisted last week that Pashinian did not spread hate speech or promise a violent crackdown on the opposition on the campaign trail. He said the premier used the hammer only as a metaphor for a “dictatorship of the law” promised by him.

Manukian said he continues to believe that Pashinian is responsible for Armenia’s defeat in the war and unfit to deal with lingering security challenges facing the country. “Everything must to be done to make Pashinian resign,” he told reporters.

Manukian was one of the leaders of a political movement that ended Communist rule in Soviet Armenia in 1990 and led the country to independence. He served as prime minister from 1990-1990 and defense minister from 1992-1993.

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