Mamikon Aslanian, who ran Armenia’s third largest city from 2016-2021, was transferred from prison to a medical center in Yerevan on Wednesday after what one of his lawyers described as “drastic fluctuations” of his blood pressure.
“Medical examinations [of his condition] have been going on since yesterday,” the lawyer, Yervand Varosian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Thursday.
Varosian said his client’s health problems have been aggravated by his seven-month imprisonment strongly condemned by the Armenian opposition.
An opposition bloc led by Aslanian essentially won a municipal election in Vanadzor with about 39 percent of the vote. Civil Contract finished second with 25 percent in what was the most serious of setbacks suffered by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s party in nationwide local polls held on December 5.
Aslanian was thus well-placed to regain his post. But he was arrested on December 15, with law-enforcement authorities saying that he illegally privatized municipal land during his five-year tenure.
The 48-year-old ex-mayor insisted that the charges leveled against him are politically motivated when he went on trial on June 10.
His lawyers petitioned a Vanadzor judge presiding over the trial to release him from custody pending a verdict in the case. The judge refused to do that, saying that Aslanian could pressure witnesses in the case if set free.
Varosian brushed aside the explanation, arguing that the criminal case is based on purported documentary evidence submitted by prosecutors. “So it doesn’t really matter what testimony witnesses will or will not give in the court,” he said.
Aslanian’s supporters as well as opposition figures in Yerevan claim that Pashinian ordered the ex-mayor’s arrest and prosecution to make sure that the Vanadzor municipality remains under his control. The prime minister, they say, thus effectively overturned the local election results.
Vanadzor’s new municipal council has still not been able to meet and elect the city’s new mayor. Armenia’s Administrative Council has banned the council from holding sessions, citing an appeal against the election results lodged by another pro-government party, Bright Armenia.
The ban remains in force even though the appeal was rejected by two other courts earlier this year. Bright Armenia, which fared poorly in the December polls, appealed to the higher Court of Cassation. The court has still not ruled on the complaint.