Avetik Chalabian was charged on May 13 with trying to pay university students to participate in daily anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan.
The charges are based on leaked audio of short fragments of his conversation with the head of the student council of the Armenian National Agrarian University. Law-enforcement authorities say it shows that Chalabian offered 2 million drams ($4,800) for the presence of 2,000 students at daily opposition rallies in Yerevan that began on May 1.
Chalabian’s lawyers say that the recording, which first appeared on a pro-government website, was doctored by the authorities. They have repeatedly demanded the release of full audio of the conversation, saying that it would disprove the accusations.
Chalabian, who leads a small opposition party, has described them as government retribution for his active participation in the protests aimed at forcing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to resign. Prosecutors deny any political motives.
The 49-year-old oppositionist walked free from a prison about 50 kilometers west of Yerevan one day after the start of his trial. He was released immediately after the expiry of the duration of his detention sanctioned by a court.
The prosecutors could have asked the judge presiding over the trial to extend the detention period during a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning. The hearing was adjourned, however, after the prison administration told the judge that Chalabian cannot attend it because of having a fever and high blood pressure.
Speaking at the opening session of his trial on Tuesday, Chalabian accused Pashinian of “persecuting” him and his family. He appeared to echo allegations that his brother Ara, who holds a senior position in the Armenian Central Bank, is under strong government pressure to resign.
Armenian media reports have claimed that the Central Bank governor, Martin Galstian, has told Ara Chalabian to quit his job, citing an order from Pashinian.
The bank’s press service reacted vaguely to those reports while Pashinian’s office declined any comment earlier this week.
Ara Chalabian also remains silent on the subject. There have been no official announcements of his dismissal or resignation so far.