Armenia ex- official arrested amid scandal surrounding top court head
October 24, 2019 - 13:09 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A court in Yerevan on Thursday, October 24 decided to arrest former deputy chief of staff of the Armenian National Assembly Arsen Babayan, Armtimes.com reports.
Babayan is accused of committing fraud and assisting in the embezzlement of power.
According to a statement released by the Special Investigation Service, Babayan, as the deputy chief of staff of the Armenian parliament, assisted a number of officials in taking over the powers of the Constitutional Court in 2018.
Babayan does not plead guilty.
His detention on Monday was based on a report by independent lawmaker Arman Babajanyan who broke the news himself in a Facebook post.
The information was part of a lawsuit brought by Babajanyan to the General Prosecutor’s Office, claiming that the President of Armenia’s Constitutional Court, Hrayr Tovmasyan, has assumed the post illegally.
Tovmasyan, who was appointed in the position in February 2018, has been accused by members of the ruling My Step party of having a conflict of interest in the trial of ex-President Robert Kocharyan because of his history and ties with the country’s pre-revolutionary authorities.
The National Assembly voted to ask the Constitutional Court to strip Tovmasyan of his judicial powers on October 4, but the court rejected the motion, since it “does not comply with the established rules”.
On October 17, the Special Investigation Service (SIS) launched a criminal investigation against Tovmasyan, two days after the Constitutional Court rejected the parliament’s appeal. The probe is based on Babajanyan’s lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, Babajanyan claims that Tovmasyan colluded with officials from the former ruling Republican Party to become chairman of the Constitutional Court.
The SIS has accused Tovmasyan of “seizing state power or keeping state power through violence,” a crime punishable by an imprisonment of 10-15 years.
Tovmasyan’s father and two daughters have been questioned by Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS).
Tovmasyan himself claims that the aim of stripping him of his judicial powers was to stop the Constitutional Court from exercising its oversight role in ensuring that any political decisions made by Prime Minister Nikol Pahshinyan and his My Step bloc would be in line with the constitution.
He has said he is not going to leave his post willingly.
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