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Opposition Lawmaker In ‘Grave Condition’ After Arrest


Armenia - Armen Charchian of the opposition Hayastan alliance arrives for a session of the Armenian parliament.

A prominent Armenian surgeon and opposition parliamentarian suffered a heart attack one day after being arrested again last week, his lawyer said on Wednesday, demanding his immediate release.

Armen Charchian, who headed Yerevan’s Izmirlian Medical Center, is prosecuted for allegedly pressuring his subordinates to vote in the June 20 parliamentary elections. He was first arrested three days after being elected to the Armenian parliament on the main opposition Hayastan alliance’s ticket.

Charchian, who rejects the accusations as politically motivated, was released from custody on bail at the start of his trial a month later. He was sent back to jail on August 23 after Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned the decision made by the judge presiding over the trial.

Charchian was rushed to Yerevan’s Nork-Marash Medical Center, a heart clinic, the following day. The hospital director, Mikael Adamian, confirmed on Wednesday that the 61-year-old suffered a heart attack.

Adamian described his current condition as “moderately grave” and said the opposition lawmaker, who also suffers from diabetes, must remain in the hospital.

Charchian’s lawyer, Erik Andreasian, demanded, meanwhile, an immediate court hearing on his petition to release his client on bail.

“Mr. Charchian cannot remain under arrest in these circumstances,” said Andreasian.

The lawyer and the Hayastan alliance say that Charchian’s arrest was illegal because it was not allowed by the parliament. Prosecutors counter that he did not enjoy parliamentary immunity from prosecution because he was indicted before being elected to the National Assembly.

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

Charchian is one of three jailed members of the parliament representing the opposition bloc led by former President Robert Kocharian. The two others were arrested in July on separate corruption charges also strongly denied by them.

Charchian was charged with coercing voters after a non-governmental organization publicized a leaked audio recording of his pre-election meeting with the Izmirlian Medical Center staff. He told them that they must participate in the elections or face “much tougher treatment” by the hospital management.

The doctor has insisted that he only asked his staffers to vote on June 20 and did not threaten to fire anyone.

Aleksanian has argued, for his part, that the leaked audio contains only a short excerpt from Charchian’s comments made at the meeting. According to him, a longer recording presented by the defense lawyers shows that the then hospital chief made clear he will not resort to “repressions” against anyone refusing to go to the polls.

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