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Opposition Lawmaker Challenges Travel Ban


Armenian - Armen Gevorgian, a former senior aide to ex-President Robert Kocharian, speaks to journalists in a court building in Yerevan, January 29, 2019.

A senior opposition lawmaker standing trial on what he sees as politically motivated charges on Tuesday again asked a court in Yerevan to allow him to attend sessions of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in Strasbourg.

Armen Gevorgian is the sole full-fledged opposition member of the Armenian parliament’s delegation in the PACE. He is affiliated with the Hayastan alliance led by former President Robert Kocharian.

Kocharian and Gevorgian face bribery charges, strongly denied by them, in an ongoing trial that began more than two years ago. They both were banned from leaving Armenia without the court’s permission.

Anna Danibekian, the judge presiding over the trial, refused last month to let Gevorgian participate in the PACE’s autumn session held on September 27-30. Two other opposition lawmakers, who have the status of “substitutes” in the 8-member delegation in the Strasbourg-based assembly, boycotted the session out of solidarity with him.

During the latest court hearing on the high-profile case, Gevorgian’s lawyer, Lusine Sahakian, petitioned Danibekian to lift the travel ban, saying that it is unjustified. The trial prosecutors objected to the request.

The judge did not grant it while leaving open the possibility of allowing Gevorgian to travel abroad later on. She said she will consider such permissions on a case-by-case basis.

Gevorgian, 48, is also the chairman of the Armenian parliament’s standing committee on “regional and Eurasian integration.” He was an influential aide to Kocharian when the latter ruled the country from 1998-2008. Gevorgian also served as deputy prime minister from 2008-2014 in the administration of then President Serzh Sarkisian.

Earlier in September, Danibekian refused to allow Kocharian to visit Moscow at the invitation of Russia’s ruling party. Hayastan condemned her decision, saying that it was made under strong government pressure.

The judge had repeatedly given Kocharian permission to travel to Moscow before the June 20 parliamentary elections in which the ex-president’s bloc finished second.

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