By Gayane Saribekian
YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Law-enforcement authorities have launched criminal proceedings against a young political activist who has branded Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan a “nation-destroying scourge” and accused him of treason.
Shahen Harutyunyan, the 22-year-old leader of a small party called Shant Alliance, is one of several hundred individuals investigated by the authorities under legal amendments condemned by Armenian and Western human rights groups.
The amendments to the Criminal Code passed by Armenia’s government-controlled parliament last summer made “grave insults” directed at individuals because of their “public activities” crimes punishable by heavy fines and a prison sentence of up to three months. Those individuals may include government and law-enforcement officials, politicians and other public figures.
According to the Office of the Prosecutor-General, 31 Armenians faced such criminal charges by January 1. Many of them are thought to have been accused of offending Pashinyan.
Harutyunyan may also be indicted. He was summoned to a police station in Yerevan on January 20 just days after denouncing on his Facebook page “yet another act of high treason and manifestation of indignity” by Pashinyan. He also echoed former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s famous characterization of the prime minister as a “nation-destroying scourge.”