YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The Armenian parliament voted on June 16 to allow law-enforcement authorities to prosecute the leader of its largest group, Gagik Tsarukyan, on charges rejected by him as unfounded and politically motivated.
The parliament, controlled by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s My Step bloc was due to vote separately later in the day on Tsarukyan’s pre-trial arrest sought by the National Security Service (NSS).
Addressing lawmakers, Prosecutor-General Artur Davtyan again backed NSS allegations that Tsarukyan “created and led an organized group” that bought more than 17,000 votes for his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) during parliamentary elections held in April 2017. Davtyan said the NSS has collected documents and testimony showing that the vote bribes were handed out to residents of the Gegharkunik province.
Tsarukyan and other BHK lawmakers vehemently denied the accusations when they spoke on the parliament floor before the first vote. They said that law-enforcement authorities have not produced any evidence of his involvement in the alleged vote buying.
They again claimed that Pashinyan ordered the criminal proceedings in response to Tsarukyan’s demands for the entire Armenian government’s resignation voiced on June 5.
Tsarukyan stood by his claims that the government has failed to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the country and tackle severe socioeconomic consequences of the deadly epidemic.