Businessman Khachatur Sukiasian arrives for the government's question-and-answer session in parliament, Yerevan, March 22, 2023

Ruling Party Disavows Death Threats to Armenian Opposition

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By Astghik Bedevian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am) — Armenia’s ruling Civil Contract party on Thursday, May 23 distanced itself from one of its influential parliamentarians who voiced apparent death threats against opposition figures and other individuals trying to topple Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

The wealthy lawmaker, Khachatur Sukiasyan, said on Wednesday that they risk losing their freedom, assets and even lives. He lambasted not only oppositionists but also “many other Armenian citizens” who he claimed “serve other states.”

“Mr. Sukiasyan’s position expressed in an oral speech does not reflect the position of Civil Contract and its parliamentary group,” said the group’s secretary, Artur Hovannisyan.

Hovannisyan, who himself threatened last year to “cut the tongues and ears” of the Armenian government’s detractors, insisted that the party led by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is “guided exclusively in a democratic way.”

The main opposition Hayastan bloc was unconvinced by these assurances. The bloc’s parliamentary leader, Seyran Ohanyan, indicated that it will likely lodge a formal complaint with law-enforcement authorities. He said Sukiasyan’s remarks “contained elements” corresponding to some articles of the Armenian Criminal Code.

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“I assume that Khachatur Sukiasyan spoke on behalf of the authorities,” said Hayk Mamijanyan, who leads the parliamentary group of another opposition bloc, Pativ Unem. “If not, they will act through oligarchic gangs and the like. No problem, we are not afraid of anything.”

Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that it has not launched a formal inquiry into Sukiasyan’s threats. Law-enforcement authorities have been quick to prosecute some critics of Pashinyan for spreading “hate speech.”

Sukiasyan’s threats came as an opposition-backed movement led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanian of the Armenian Apostolic Church geared up for renewed antigovernment demonstrations in Yerevan. Galstanian demanded that prosecutors investigate not only the threats but also Sukiasyan’s claims that Pashinyan’s foes work for foreign intelligence services.

Sukiasyan, 62, has held parliament seats under the current and former governments. Since Pashinyan came to power in 2018, the tycoon and his extended family have significantly expanded their business interests not least because of lucrative government contracts controversially won by their firms.

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