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Higher Court Allows Re-Arrest Of Pro-Opposition Doctor


Prominent Armenian surgeon Armen Charchian (L) is being greeted by former President Robert Kocharian, leader of the opposition Hayastan alliance, during a rally in Yerevan, May 9, 2021.

A higher court in Armenia has granted an appeal by prosecutors seeking the re-arrest of a prominent surgeon who was charged with pressuring his subordinates to go to the polls in the June 20 parliamentary elections in which he participated as a candidate affiliated with an opposition alliance.

Prosecutors argued that Armen Charchian could influence other participants in his trial if he remained free.

Charchian, who headed Yerevan’s Izmirlian Medical Center, was prosecuted after a non-governmental organization publicized a leaked audio recording of his pre-election meeting with hospital personnel.

Charchian, who ran for parliament on the ticket of the Hayastan (Armenia) Alliance led by former President Robert Kocharian, 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 rejected the accusations as baseless and politically motivated before a Yerevan court allowed a law-enforcement agency on June 23 to arrest him pending investigation. Hayastan’s leadership, the Armenian Apostolic Church, which owns the hospital, as well as hundreds of medics have since demanded his release.

At the start of the high-profile trial of the 61-year-old doctor that began on July 19 a judge presiding over the trial agreed to grant him bail.

Charchian later decided to pick a parliamentary mandate and become a member of the Hayastan faction in the National Assembly.

At the start of the new parliament’s session in early August the opposition demanded the release of two other Hayastan lawmakers who were arrested on other charges that they reject as politically motivated before they picked their mandates in July.

The opposition insisted that since the arrested politicians’ status had changed, they had to be released and the prosecutor-general was to come to parliament and ask for the legislative body’s consent to be able to prosecute and arrest them again.

Prosecutors insisted, however, that there was no need to ask the parliament for its consent to prosecution and arrest of former Sisian mayor Artur Sargsian and former Meghri mayor Mkhitar Zakarian, both of whom are charged with abuse of office, since their prosecution began when they were still in the status of candidates and the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) had agreed to their immunity being removed.

The same, according to prosecutors, applies to Charchian whose prosecution and arrest as a candidate was also allowed by the CEC still before the June 20 vote.

The Hayastan Alliance has described the decision of the Court of Appeal to allow the re-arrest of Charchian as politically motivated, and Charchian’s lawyers say they are going to appeal it.

Charchian denies any wrongdoing, claiming that he only asked his staffers to vote on June 20 and did not threaten to fire anyone.

Prosecutors maintain, however, that Charchian’s remarks amounted to election-related pressure and coercion prohibited by Armenian law.

If convicted, the prominent surgeon will risk between four and seven years in prison.

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