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Proposition to prosecute Armenian opposition leader put to parliament

20 January 2023
Seyran Ohanyan. Photo: Parliament.am

Armenia’s Prosecutor General on Friday submitted three requests to parliament to begin criminal proceedings against parliamentary opposition leader and former defence minister Seyran Ohanyan. 

Armenia’s parliament will vote on whether to begin proceedings in early February. 

Seyran Ohanyan served as Defence Minister between 2008 and 2016, and has led the Armenia Alliance, the country’s largest parliamentary opposition bloc, since 2021. 

In 2020 and 2021, Ohanyan was charged with abuse of power and embezzlement of state funds and property during his time as Minister of Defence. The former minister has denied the charges. 

Ohanyan said he had not been contacted before the Prosecutor General’s announcement, and had not received any additional information from law enforcement or the parliamentary speaker. 

He accused the country’s authorities of releasing the information to distract people from ‘the country’s situation’. A fire in a military barracks in eastern Armenia on Thursday killed 15 service members, and the Lachin corridor, which connects Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, has been blocked since 12 December. 

[Read more on OC Media: Military officials sacked as fire kills 15 Armenian servicemen]

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Ohanyan described the prosecutor’s move as ‘yet another show’, and claimed he was responding to it ‘very calmly’.

Last spring, a Yerevan court accepted an application from the  Prosecutor’s Office to confiscate ֏1.1 billion ($2.8 million) worth of property from Ohanyan, which it alleged had been illegally obtained. 

Armenia’s opposition has accused the authorities of taking other ‘illegal’ actions against members of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) party. The houses of a number of senior party members were raided by law enforcement officers earlier this month, including that of Simon Simonyan, the chair of the ARF’s supreme body. 

Ishkhan Saghatelyan, the deputy parliamentary speaker and an ARF member, called Armenia’s law enforcement a ‘blunt tool [for the government]’, after reporting raids and detentions of a number of ARF members in Armenia’s Ararat Province early in January.

Armenia’s Investigative Committee claimed the raids were related to ongoing criminal cases against ARF members accused of forcing people to take part in last year’s anti-government protests. 

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