The politician, Avetik Chalabian, was arrested on May 13 on charges of trying to pay university students to participate in daily anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan. He rejects the accusations as government retribution for his active participation in the protests launched by the Armenian opposition on May 1.
Chalabian referred to himself as a political “hostage” in a letter to his wife, Anahit Adamian, read out by her at a news conference in Yerevan on Monday.
“As if this was not enough, my brother, Ara Chalabian, is being subjected to illegal and crude repression,” he wrote.
Ara Chalabian is the head of the Central Bank’s Department of Corporate Services and Development. Citing an opposition figure close to Avetik, Armenian news websites claimed earlier this month that the Central Bank governor, Martin Galstian, has told him to step down.
An article subsequently posted on Hetq.am said the Chalabians’ father made the same allegation during a private conversation. It said Galstian told Ara Chalabian that he was “forced to do so by the government” and that Galstian himself will have to tender his resignation if Ara refuses to quit.
Galstian, who was installed as Central Bank governor by the Armenian parliament in 2020, has not personally reacted to the allegations.
In a short written comment to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, his press office said: “The Central Bank does not provide personal information about third parties.”
The bank is supposedly independent from Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government. The latter has not commented on the alleged pressure on Galstian.
Ara Chalabian also remains silent on the subject. There have been no official announcements of his dismissal or resignation so far.
The criminal case against Avetik Chalabian is based on leaked audio of short fragments of his conversations with Tornik Aliyan, the chairman of the student council of the Armenian National Agrarian University. Law-enforcement authorities say it shows that Chalabian offered to pay Aliyan 2 million drams ($4,800) for the presence of 2,000 students at opposition rallies.
Chalabian’s lawyers insisted on Monday that the recording, which first appeared on a pro-government website, was doctored by the authorities. They again demanded the release of full audio of the conversation, saying that it would disprove the accusations leveled against their client.
Avetik Chalabian, 49, leads a small opposition party. He is also a co-founder of a private charity helping the Armenian military as well as border villages in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.