By Abdul Kerimkhanov
A court in Armenia has changed preventive measure against the executive director of the Hayastan All –Armenian Fund Ara Vardanyan and remanded him in custody following fresh charges of embezzlement.
On October 9, Yerevan Court of General Jurisdiction approved a motion to select the arrest as a preventive measure against Vardanyan on new charges of misappropriation or embezzlement in large amount.
“This charge, as well as the selection of a preventive measure in the form of detention with respect to a person who never violated the conditions of release on bail for the period of a year and three months, testifies that Ara Vardanyan’s socio-political activity served as a reason [for his arrest]” Vardanyan’s lawyers Lusine Sahakyan and Yervand Varosyan have said in a joint statement.
The lawyers denied the charges against Vardanyan and also said that the preliminary investigation body has failed to present relevant evidence to the court. They also emphasized that although the court’s decision on the arrest had not yet been announced, the employees of the penitentiary institution who had to accompany him to the remanded center arrived at the court.
Vardanyan was detained on July 3, 2018, by Armenian Security Service, and was charged with abuse of power. He was later released on bail. Vardanyan admitted to using the Fund's credit line of 25 million drams ($55,000) to bet at online casinos. The Fund representatives later said that Vardanyan returned money that he spent from the Fund’s budget.
It’s worth mentioning that Vardanyan had recently been actively supporting ex-president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan who is presently under arrest.
Many Armenian experts agree that the repeated arrest of Vardanyan is politically motivated. The Head of the Civil Tribune initiative, Aghvan Poghosyan, believes that the post-revolutionary Armenian authorities resort to repressions to intimidate the opposition and the media representatives. He expressed confidence that Vardanyan was arrested for joining a group of figures who demand the release of Kocharyan. “This is an open intimidation of opponents. Pashinyan wants his opponents to know that any criticism will be followed by arrest,” he noted.
Director of the Armenian Center for Political and International Studies Aghasi Yenokyan said that the Armenian authorities were surprised to find out that there are people in Armenia who are not afraid of Pashinyan and of being arrested. He stated that arrest of Vardanyan and of other high-profile former officials, no longer cause an enthusiastic reaction of the Armenian population.
Yenokyan believes that Pashinyan did not justify the hopes pinned on the velvet revolution. Contrary to their pre-revolutionary promises to make people’s lives better, the efforts of the current Armenian authorities are aimed at two things: to hold Robert Kocharyan under arrest and to remove the president of the Constitutional Court Hrayr Tovmasyan. He also said that judging by the scale of the repression, there will not be enough prisons left for everyone soon, and Pashinyan will have to build concentration camps.
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
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