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ECHR: Armenia’s former finance minister should receive immediate medical treatment

23 July 2020
Gagik Khachatryan. Photo via armenpress.am.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has partially upheld an appeal by Gagik Khachatryan for immediate medical treatment. He is currently in pre-trial detention for embezzlement and abuse of power, requesting immediate medical treatment. 

The appeal was granted on 21 July. 

The ECHR is requesting that the Government of Armenia ensure that Khachatryan receives immediate medical treatment at a civilian hospital, with the participation of foreign specialists if necessary. 

Yerem Sargsyan, one of Khachatryan’s lawyers, announced the ECHR decision on Wednesday. According to Sargsyan, Khachatryan requires immediate surgery for spinal stenosis. 

Khachatryan, who has been in pre-trial detention since August 2019, had been receiving treatment at the Astghik Medical Centre in Yerevan before being discharged on 22 May 2020. 

Before his arrest, Khachatryan was receiving medical treatment in Germany and had undergone surgery but returned to Armenia for questioning. He has been accused of embezzlement and abuse of power during his tenure as Head of the State Revenue Committee from 2008 to 2014 and Finance Minister from 2014 to 2018. 

Due to the criminal charges, Khachatryan was not able to return to Germany to continue his treatment. According to his lawyers, the surgery he needs cannot be carried out in Armenia. 

‘Only painkillers’

On 22 June 2020, Khachatryan’s lawyers sent an appeal to the ECHR requesting that the Armenian government ensure that Khachatryan receives proper medical treatment in a civilian hospital and that he be allowed to travel to Germany if necessary. 

The ECHR did not uphold the request for Khachatryan to leave the country.

Khachatryan’s lawyers claim that the state had conducted three medical consultations since 4 July 2019 regarding Khachatryan’s health and had also concluded that he required spinal stenosis surgery. 

However,  based on recommendations from the Penitentiary Medicine Centre, Khachatryan was discharged and taken back to prison on the grounds that he will receive whatever treatment needed there.

The Ministry of Justice had issued a statement soon after explaining the decision, stating that a patient did not need to be fully recovered to be discharged and that further treatment could be done outside a hospital. 

Khachatryan’s lawyer Yerem Sargsyan has claimed that the only treatment Khachatryan had received since his discharge were painkillers and that there is a risk to his health. 

Khachatryan’s lawyers also claim that after their appeal to the ECHR, the Armenian government sent their own opinion to the Court which stated that based on a separate expert examination Khachatryan did not need surgery, physical therapy or rehabilitation and instead should be provided painkillers. 

In an interview with Armenpress, Armenia’s Representative to the ECHR Yeghishe Kirakosyan said that this was an ordinary practice and there was nothing extraordinary about the decision.

Khachatryan’s lawyers expect he will be moved to a civilian hospital again soon. 

According to Yerem Sargsyan, they have also filed complaints to the ECHR about Khachatryan’s arrest and alleged torture by the Armenian authorities, which are currently being reviewed by the Court.

‘Money laundering, embezzlement, and abuse of power’

Gagik Khachatryan served as the Head of Armenia’s Revenue Committee from 2008-2014, and as Finance Minister from 2014-2016. 

He has been accused of money laundering, embezzlement and abuse of power. He was arrested in August 2019 for receiving a ֏8.142 billion ($22.4 million) bribe from Sedrak Arustamyan, General Director of Multi Group Concern, for agreeing to help the company avoid oversight from the state tax and customs agencies.

Sedrakyan Arustamyan has been in pre-trial detention since 25 April.

Multi-Group Concern, a holding company that controls businesses ranging from food and alcohol production to construction and industrial manufacturing, belongs to Gagik Tsarukyan, the head of the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party and one of the wealthiest individuals in Armenia.  

Tsarukyan is also currently being investigated for vote-buying during the 2017 parliamentary elections, millions of dollars worth of illegal business practices and orchestrating a fraudulent land transfer scheme.

[Read more on OC Media: Armenian parliament clears way for arrest of opposition oligarch]

In April 2020, Khachatryan’s sons were also indicted for concealing the bribe. One of the sons, Gurgen Khachatryan, has claimed that his family is innocent and that the charges are politically motivated. 

The Khachatryan family owns a large number of enterprises in Armenia, including the Yerevan Mall, a chain of restaurants, the Roomshin construction company, and telecommunications company Ucom, among others. 

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