Hrayr Tovmasyan

Government Denies Bullying Constitutional Court Members

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The Armenian authorities have strongly denied media claims that they will use repressive methods and even blackmail in a bid to force the chairman and other members of Armenia’s Constitutional Court to resign.

Citing an unnamed government source, Hraparak daily said late last week that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has given the heads of Armenia’s law-enforcement agencies one week to ensure those resignations. It claimed that at a “secret” meeting in Yerevan Pashinyan discussed with them various ways of achieving that, including pressure on close relatives of the Constitutional Court judges.

Another newspaper critical of Pashinyan’s government, 168 Zham, alleged afterwards that the Armenian police possess secretly filmed video evidence of extramarital affairs involving two unnamed members of the court. The police will threaten to publicize that compromising material if the judges refuse to step down, claimed the paper.

A spokesman for Prosecutor-General Artur Davtyan flatly denied those “false reports” at the weekend, saying that they are aimed at “discrediting” the country’s top law-enforcement officials.

“I find it necessary to inform that there was no such meeting, especially with such an agenda and especially with the participation of Armenia’s prosecutor-general,” Gor Abrahamyan wrote on Facebook.

Ararat Mirzoyan, the Armenian parliament speaker and a close associate of Pashinyan, shrugged off the allegations on Monday. “I don’t have time to comment on any fictitious theories,” he said.

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Davtyan charged Constitutional Court Chairman Hrayr Tovmasyan with two counts of abuse of power late last month. The chief prosecutor’s office said Tovmasyan unlawfully privatized an office in Yerevan and forced state notaries to rent other offices de facto belonging to him when he served as justice minister from 2010-2014.

Tovmasyan was quick to reject the accusations as politically motivated. He claimed that the Armenian government warned him this summer that he will be indicted if he refuses to step down.

Mirzoyan brushed aside that claim, saying that Tovmasyan would have been prosecuted even if he had resigned. “The criminal case is not to do with his [current] tenure,” he told reporters.

The speaker also insisted that Pashinyan’s political team is not desperate to get rid of Tovmasyan and six other judges of the nine-member Constitutional Court who were installed by the country’s former governments. “It’s not that we go to bed and wake up thinking only about this issue and that our supreme goal is to oust Hrayr Tovmasyan from the Constitutional Court,” he said.

Pashinyan implicitly demanded the resignation of the high court judges in August. He accused them of maintaining links with Armenia’s former leadership and impeding reforms which he says are aimed at creating a “truly independent judiciary.”

Pashinyan’s critics say that he is on the contrary seeking to gain control over all Armenian courts and thus tighten his grip on power.

Tovmasyan was indicted on December 27 one day after President Armen Sarkissian signed into law a controversial government bill giving the seven Constitutional Court judges financial incentives to resign before the end of their mandate.

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