27 Dec 2019 13:24

Armenian Constitutional Court chairman charged with abuse of power

YEREVAN. Dec 27 (Interfax) - Charges have been filed against Chairman of the Armenian Constitutional Court Grair Tovmasyan, lawyer Ruben Melikyan told reporters on Friday.

"Grair Tovmasyan has been charged. I don't know based on what article yet, but, according to the information I have, he has been charged," Melikyan said.

Press secretary for the Armenian Special Investigative Service Marina Ogandzhanyan told Interfax that Tovmasyan has been charged with abuse of power.

Abuse of power leading to severe consequences through negligence is punishable by two to six years in prison with a ban on working in specific positions or engaging in specific activities for a period of no more than three years.

Investigators from the Armenian Special Investigative Service are now in the building of the country's Constitutional Court. A rally in support of Tovmasyan and members of the Constitutional Court is now being held at the court building.

On Thursday, Armenian President Armen Sarkissian signed a law amending the law on the Constitutional Court, which was previously adopted by the parliament, which envisages the payment to court officials of pensions in an amount of the current wage and extra payments if they resign by January 31, 2020.

The bill was presented by the Justice Ministry and, according to the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition, is a kind of a "legal bribe" to judges to vacate positions for the formation of a new Constitutional Court.

The monthly wage of the Constitutional Court chairman without bonuses is 1.58 million dram ($2,230), and the monthly wage of a Constitutional Court judge is 794,000 dram ($1,700).

If all judges resign voluntarily, it will cost the state budget 630 million dram ($1.32 million).

The current Armenian authorities are seeking Tovmasyan's resignation. The Armenian Constitutional Court earlier rejected the address of the parliament which voted to strip Tovmasyan of his powers.

The initiators of the termination of the court chairman's powers said Tovmasyan had allowed irregularities in the trial of the case of Armenia's ex-president Robert Kocharyan, who was charged with overthrowing the country's constitutional system.

The Armenian Constitutional Court found Kocharyan's arrest to be illegal on September 4. Nevertheless, the first-instance court and the Court of Appeals disregarded the Constitutional Court's opinion and refused to release Kocharyan on bail.

The Armenian prime minister's press secretary Vladimir Karapetyan earlier told the Armenian service of Radio Liberty that the previous administration of the country "made former Constitutional Court Chairman Gagik Arutyunyan resign for Tovmasyan to be elected to that post.

Arutyunyan told the local media he had resigned voluntarily. "I was elected chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council and, naturally, I decided to step down as Constitutional Court chairman. It was my personal decision," he said.

In addition, the Armenian Investigative Committee said that incumbent Constitutional Court Chairman Tovmasyan was involved in the purchase of a building in central Yerevan in breach of the law when he was justice minister of Armenia. An abuse of office case was opened against him.