YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Gagik Harutyunyan, the head of a state body overseeing Armenia’s courts, resigned on Friday, May 24, citing recent days’ developments that followed the government’s strong criticism of the Armenian judiciary.
In what may have been a related development, Harutyunyan’s brother, Arzuman, was dismissed as deputy director of the National Security Service. No official reason was given for the sacking proposed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and formalized by President Armen Sarkissian.
In a letter publicized by his spokesman, Harutyunyan said he no longer finds it “expedient” to head the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) “in view of ongoing developments relating to the judicial authority and courts and my concerns expressed in that regard through the media on May 20.”
“I wish you continued fruitful activities in the establishment of an independent judicial authority befitting a rule-of-law state,” read the letter addressed to members of the council.
The concerns cited by Harutyunyan followed Pashinyan’s May 19 appeal to his supporters to block the entrances to all court buildings in the country. The appeal came the day after a Yerevan court ordered former President Robert Kocharyan released from jail pending the outcome of his trial on coup and corruption charges. The court’s decision angered many allies and supporters of Pashinyan.
Speaking at a May 20 meeting with senior state officials, Pashinyan said that Armenian courts remain linked to “the former corrupt system” and distrusted by the population. He announced plans for a mandatory “vetting” of all judges. Many of them should resign even before the start of such a process, the prime minister said.