After the change of government in 2018, Nikol Pashinyan started criminal prosecutions against the opposition, the former, including especially the heads of local self-government bodies.
These persecutions reached their peak after the war of 2020 and especially in 2021, when it turned out that the CP government could not win in the local self-government. After the war, many community leaders demanded Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation and appeared on his black list.
In the foreground, of course, were the mayors of Syunik, who greeted Pashinyan with Syunik greetings. Pashinyan, whoever he could, arrested, whoever he could not, started to implement a new program of community enlargement, the real goal of which was to get rid of the opposition community leaders and the localization of local self-government bodies. Incredible fake criminal cases were “sewn” against hundreds of community leaders so that they would not dare to participate in the local elections, some were isolated for an indefinite period of time, some were detained before the elections, some after the elections.
At some point, almost all the mayors of Syunik appeared in prison: Arush Arushanyan, Mkhitar Zakaryan, Manvel Paramazyan, Arthur Sargsyan. Some of them did not participate in the elections, and Arushanyan won the CP from the fortress. According to undeniable rumors, a criminal case has been initiated against more than 300 community heads. The elections are over, we can say that the danger is in the past, but some community leaders continue to be detained, it can be thought that they have committed serious crimes. The allegations, however, are ridiculous, and the law requires that pre-trial detention be applied only in specific cases where there is a risk that a person may commit a new crime or influence witnesses. And the accusations against the mayors are either already committed, over, say, electoral crimes, or they are economic accusations, with articles of abuse of office, which are mostly unfounded and have a political context. And the meaning is only to keep the person in the status of a hostage and to impose some concessions. For example, Mamikon Aslanyan, the former mayor of Vanadzor, has been under arrest since December 2021. The bloc led by him won the most votes in the December 4 local elections, and if Aslanyan had not been arrested, he would have been elected mayor now. The authorities arrested Aslanyan to obstruct the election, and last month changed the law twice to appoint Arkady Peleshyan, known as Aka, with a criminal record, as acting mayor. And Aslanyan’s fault, according to the Investigative Committee, was to change the purpose of the specific addresses of Vanadzor city, “turning them from the lands of the purpose of the settlements into energy, transport, Targeted lands of communication and communal infrastructure objects, and operational significance from public construction lands, lands of operational significance of communal infrastructure, which he did not have the authority to: “As a result, the rights and legitimate interests of the state and the community have been severely damaged, which has caused serious consequences through negligence.”
His lawyers have repeatedly spoken about the actions attributed to Mamikon Aslanyan, calling them baseless and fabricated. The problem is that if Aslanyan is released, the councils of elders of the bloc and the “Homeland” party have a majority, they can convene a session and elect Aslanyan as mayor.
Berd community head Harutyun Manucharyan was arrested in November last year. He appeared in the throat of the government because he did not agree to make a deal with Pashinyan’s godfather’s governor Ghalumyan to resign, so that they would appoint his own official and occupy Berd as well. Manucharyan supported the opposition in last year’s snap elections, as a result of which he was arrested and is still being held in custody. Harutyun Manucharyan was charged with Article 308, Part 1 (abuse of official authority) and Part 314, Part 1 (official forgery) of the Criminal Code. According to the accusation, Manucharyan’s son, Anushavan Manucharyan, carried out construction.
Harutyun Manucharyan was officially informed about it in 2020. On August 27, when the head of the land use department, according to his son’s application, went and registered it on the spot. Administrative proceedings were initiated, and since the war started on September 27, the proceedings were suspended, and during that time the statute of limitations for administrative liability expired. Although part of the voluntary structure was on community land, the whole structure became the property of the community and sold to the developer, Anushavan Manucharyan. In addition to the fact that money was transferred to the community budget, the land outside the community, on the road, is rocky and not suitable for anyone, but the body conducting the proceedings considered that this act contains features of Article 308 of the Criminal Code, but criminal does not exist.
The mayor’s ombudsman once said that he had been arrested on the grounds that he had not applied administrative sanctions. “The investigator wrote in his decision that Harutyun Manucharyan had known since January 2018 that his son was carrying out illegal construction, but had not provided any evidence to the court.” A person is detained for about a year on such a ridiculous accusation.
Ara Mkrtchyan, the mayor of Kasakh, who is the father of Anna Mkrtchyan, a member of the “I have honor” faction of the National Assembly, has also been detained since November last year, and it is his daughter’s strict opposition activities that determine such an attitude towards her father. According to law enforcement agencies, 61-year-old village head Ara Mkrtchyan had previously agreed with a citizen to buy a 9,600-square-meter plot of land in Kasakh for $ 15. In another episode, the head of the community and his subordinates made the citizen who came to an agreement with them participate in the auction, mentioning the value of one square in the papers at 2,900 drams. The lands were actually sold for 59 million drams, but the documents mentioned about twice less money – 28 million drams. That is, the buyer paid them 59 million drams in cash, of which 31 million drams were misappropriated instead of entering the budget. The other episode is related to the June 20 elections. During the campaign, the recording of the village mayor’s meeting with the staff of the Neurosis Clinic in Kasakh was spread on the Internet, where Mkrtchyan was heard asking his daughter to vote. “You do not want to, you do not love me, I offended you, do not vote for me, but I force you not to vote for these zombie zombies.”
Former mayor of Vardenis, member of the “United Vardenis” bloc of parties Aram Harutyunyan has also been in custody since last December. The authorities hoped that by arresting Harutyunyan, they would get a majority in the Council of Elders, but here, as a result of internal “fights”, the leadership of the community passed to the opposition, and Harutyunyan resigned from prison to transfer his mandate to someone else and be able to elect a mayor. He is still being held as a punishment. They are accused of abuse of official authority, forgery of documents, fraud, which is related to the abuses found in the regional social assistance agency in 2019. Arrest in this case had been denied once before.
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