Armenian police arrest dozens at protest after MP Tsarukyan goes in for questioning
Today, Armenian Police arrested more than 90 supporters of Gagik Tsarukyan while they were protesting against the apparent criminal proceedings launched against the BHK party leader, Zartonk Media reports.
The hundreds of angry Tsarukyan supporters rallied there as NSS officers began interrogating the BHK leader hours after searching his house. Riot police pushed the crowd away from the building. They declared the demonstration illegal, per the coronavirus-related state of emergency in Armenia
Following today’s police raid of Tsarukyan’s house, surrounded by supporters, Tsarukyan declared that the allegations are politically-motivated and accused the government of fabricating charges that his Shangri La casino was engaged in illegal commercial activity.
Tsarukyan continued his tirade against the government, telling supporters that he would be leaving for questioning by the NSS. He has been undergoing questioning for over 6 hours at the NSS headquarters in Yerevan. Despite the calls by the police, his supporters and BHK Party members are not leaving the area. His party holds 25 of the Armenian parliament’s 132 seats.
There are media reports that a political decision has been made to arrest him, but there is no official information in this regard.
The Armenian police forcibly removed multiple Prosperous Armenia Party MP’s during their sit-in protest that took place outside of the NSS headquarters. Among these MPs were Iveta Tonoyan, Naira Zohrabyan, Karine Poghosyan, Arman Abovyan, Gevorg Petrosyan. Deputies Poghosyan and Abovyan were injured as a result of the use of force, and according to them, the police have apprehended PAP lawmaker Janibek Hayrapetyan. The deputies are indignant at how the police can throw the protesting MPs on the ground and drag them off the street, per News.Am.
Earlier today, the National Security Service (NSS) issued three statements. The NSS said the leadership and members of the Prosperous Armenia Party had been engaged in vote-buying during the 2017 parliamentary election campaign.
The NSS said about forty searches were conducted as part of the preliminary examination, during which documents containing computer records or detailed handwritten documents related to the movement of funds during the elections were confiscated.
The second statement, the National Security Service accused two gambling firms known to be run by Gagik Tsarukyan of serious financial and licensing irregularities that cost the state more than 29 billion drams ($60 million) in damage.
In a third statement the NSS said 339.300.000 was not paid to the state budget of Arinj community.
The NSS issued these charges one week after Tsarukyan called for the government’s resignation for mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic.
The BHK’s governing board issued a statement later in the day linking the crackdown to Tsarukyan’s recent demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his government. It said that the party, which holds the second largest of seats in the Armenian parliament, will not bow to the “illegal pressure.”
One of the lawmakers, Naira Zohrabyan, said the authorities may now ask the National Assembly to lift Tsarukyan’s immunity from prosecution and arrest him. “We are ready for all scenarios,” she told Azatutyun reporters.