Stepan Mikaelian, who is also a member of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), said he sees nothing wrong in the content of the 14-minute recording publicized last month.
It features a February 2021 conversation between Ruben Vartazarian, the then chairman of the SJC at odds with the Armenian government, and Gagik Jahangirian, a newly appointed member of the body overseeing Armenia’s courts. It suggests that Jahangirian warned Vartazarian to step down or face criminal charges.
Vartazarian ignored the warning. Two months later, he was indicted and suspended as SJC chairman while Jahangirian became acting head of the judicial watchdog.
The audio secretly recorded by Vartazarian caused uproar in Armenia, with opposition figures and civic activists demanding that Jahangirian be not only sacked by also prosecuted. The latter claimed that he did not blackmail his predecessor. Still, he announced his resignation from the SJC on July 1.
Mikaelian has also faced resignation calls from government critics who believe that he too was involved in the illegal pressure exerted on Vartazarian.
The judge dismissed those calls when he spoke to journalists in Yerevan. “You take part in different conversations in different places. So what?” he said.
Mikaelian claimed that both Jahangirian and Mikaelian are his “friends” and that he took them out to dinner to try to ease “some tension” between them.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee launched last week a criminal inquiry into the leaked recording. It said it is investigating possible abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The law-enforcement body has not indicted anyone so far.