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Armenian Parliament Debates ‘Political’ Case Against Oskanian

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Tensions between President Serzh Sarkisian and his former main coalition partner rose further on Monday when the Armenian parliament debated controversial criminal proceedings launched former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized details of the fraud case as he asked deputies to lift the fellow lawmaker’s legal immunity from prosecution.

Oskanian again strongly denied it as a “political order” directed against himself and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the National Assembly.

Information about the criminal case has been scant until now, with Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) only alleging money-laundering stemming from a lavish donation made to the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank founded by Oskanian, by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. in 2010. The money was generated by the sale of a construction materials plant that was built by Huntsman in Yerevan in the early 1990s. 

In his speech at the National Assembly, Hovsepian said that $1.4 million in proceeds from that deal was transferred to one of Oskanian’s Armenian bank accounts in January 2011. He said the Syrian-born former minister not only failed to deposit the sum with a separate Civilitas account but also spent more than $181,000 of it “for personal purposes.”

“I cannot say publicly which restaurant or hotel bills were paid with that money,” Hovsepian said when pressed by some lawmakers. He said the NSS should therefore be allowed to charge Oskanian with large-scale embezzlement and money laundering.

Corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code carry between 4 and 12 years’ imprisonment.

Oskanian strongly denied misappropriating any portion of the donation, saying that “every penny” of it was transferred to the Civilitas account on Saturday. He as well as several other deputies argued neither Huntsman nor the Civilitas management has filed any complaints about the matter.

x

Armenia — Armenia’s General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian (R) asks the parliament to allow NA deputy Vartan Oskanian’s prosecution in a criminal case of alleged money laundering, 1Oct, 2012

​​Hovsepian dismissed this argument, saying that law-enforcement authorities do not need such a complaint to launch a criminal investigation. He also described as coincidence the fact that the case was opened shortly after Oskanian, who served as foreign minister from 1998-2008, returned to the political arena and began harshly criticizing the government early this year.

Oskanian insisted, however, that the case is politically motivated. “Armenia is preparing for presidential elections and this case is an attempt to exert strong pressure on the BHK ahead of those elections,” he told the parliament. “These authorities are talking to political opponents in the language of hostage takers.”

The BHK leadership likewise claimed to be facing “political persecution” when it reacted to the Armenian authorities’ decision to prosecute Oskanian on Friday. A senior BHK lawmaker, Naira Zohrabian, said during Monday’s debate that the party’s parliamentary faction will walk out of the parliament building when the mostly pro-government deputies vote on the chief prosecutor’s petition on Tuesday. Zohrabian said the BHK will also consider boycotting all parliament sessions in protest.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party said they will also boycott Tuesday’s parliament vote. They too alleged political motives behind the case.

Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian linked it with the presidential ballot due in February. “Either everyone or no one must be stripped of immunity,” Hovannisian told a news conference. “That includes the current and former presidents along with their staffs, the current and former prime ministers and ministers and their staffs, the current and former parliament speakers and deputies.”

Hovannisian said at the same time that Oskanian himself is responsible for past government “repressions” because of having been a key member of former President Robert Kocharian’s administration. The Zharangutyun leader singled out the Kocharian government’s deadly post-election crackdown on the opposition in March 2008.

Nikol Pashinian, a deputy from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), similarly cited Oskanian’s alleged responsibility for the 2008 bloodshed. Pashinian, who spent nearly two years in prison as part of that crackdown, said this is a key reason why he will vote for Oskanian’s prosecution despite considering the accusations politically motivated.

It was not clear if the six other HAK deputies will do the same. HAK representatives said their parliamentary faction will announce its stance on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the majority of parliament seats, again effectively confirmed its intention to strip Oskanian of his parliamentary immunity. Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, also denied any government pressure on the BHK. “We were singing the same song as recently as six or seven months ago,” he said.

The BHK was represented in the Armenian government by four ministers until June. Gagik Tsarukian, its top leader close to Kocharian, decided to pull out of the governing coalition following parliamentary elections controversially won by the HHK.

As the parliament discussed Oskanian’s fate several dozen people, most of them Civilitas employees, demonstrated outside the National Assembly building to voice their solidarity with the ex-minister. They booed HHK deputies entering the building and held placards denouncing the ruling party. One protester also carried a banner saying that “The people are with Tsarukian.”

Salpi Ghazarian, the Civilitas director, was among the protesters. “I hope that there are enough honest, sincere, caring and intelligent people in the parliament,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If their aim is to punish Vartan Oskanian for some political considerations, such punishment will primarily hurt Armenia’s reputation.”

Earlier in the day, Civilitas circulated statements by two of its Honorary Board members, Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and U.S.-Armenian rock singer Serj Tankian, condemning the case. “The persecution of Vartan Oskanian is a deplorable and politically motivated action which is extremely dangerous to the health of the country,” said Egoyan.

Source: RFE/RLOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Government v Vardan Oskanian – A Case of Political Persecution or a Crafty Political Ploy?
  2. Persecution ahead of presidential vote?: MP Oskanian insists criminal case against Civilitas “political order”
  3. Al Jazeera refers to Vartan Oskanian and Civilitas Foundation case (video)
  4. “Oskanian Case” reveals extent of political struggle in Armenia ahead of presidential campaign
  5. U.S. Envoy Questions Criminal Case Against Oskanian

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Tensions between President Serzh Sarkisian and his former main coalition partner rose further on Monday when the Armenian parliament debated controversial criminal proceedings launched former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized details of the fraud case as he asked deputies to lift the fellow lawmaker’s legal immunity from prosecution.

Oskanian again strongly denied it as a “political order” directed against himself and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the National Assembly.

Information about the criminal case has been scant until now, with Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) only alleging money-laundering stemming from a lavish donation made to the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank founded by Oskanian, by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. in 2010. The money was generated by the sale of a construction materials plant that was built by Huntsman in Yerevan in the early 1990s. 

In his speech at the National Assembly, Hovsepian said that $1.4 million in proceeds from that deal was transferred to one of Oskanian’s Armenian bank accounts in January 2011. He said the Syrian-born former minister not only failed to deposit the sum with a separate Civilitas account but also spent more than $181,000 of it “for personal purposes.”

“I cannot say publicly which restaurant or hotel bills were paid with that money,” Hovsepian said when pressed by some lawmakers. He said the NSS should therefore be allowed to charge Oskanian with large-scale embezzlement and money laundering.

Corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code carry between 4 and 12 years’ imprisonment.

Oskanian strongly denied misappropriating any portion of the donation, saying that “every penny” of it was transferred to the Civilitas account on Saturday. He as well as several other deputies argued neither Huntsman nor the Civilitas management has filed any complaints about the matter.

x

Armenia — Armenia’s General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian (R) asks the parliament to allow NA deputy Vartan Oskanian’s prosecution in a criminal case of alleged money laundering, 1Oct, 2012

​​Hovsepian dismissed this argument, saying that law-enforcement authorities do not need such a complaint to launch a criminal investigation. He also described as coincidence the fact that the case was opened shortly after Oskanian, who served as foreign minister from 1998-2008, returned to the political arena and began harshly criticizing the government early this year.

Oskanian insisted, however, that the case is politically motivated. “Armenia is preparing for presidential elections and this case is an attempt to exert strong pressure on the BHK ahead of those elections,” he told the parliament. “These authorities are talking to political opponents in the language of hostage takers.”

The BHK leadership likewise claimed to be facing “political persecution” when it reacted to the Armenian authorities’ decision to prosecute Oskanian on Friday. A senior BHK lawmaker, Naira Zohrabian, said during Monday’s debate that the party’s parliamentary faction will walk out of the parliament building when the mostly pro-government deputies vote on the chief prosecutor’s petition on Tuesday. Zohrabian said the BHK will also consider boycotting all parliament sessions in protest.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party said they will also boycott Tuesday’s parliament vote. They too alleged political motives behind the case.

Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian linked it with the presidential ballot due in February. “Either everyone or no one must be stripped of immunity,” Hovannisian told a news conference. “That includes the current and former presidents along with their staffs, the current and former prime ministers and ministers and their staffs, the current and former parliament speakers and deputies.”

Hovannisian said at the same time that Oskanian himself is responsible for past government “repressions” because of having been a key member of former President Robert Kocharian’s administration. The Zharangutyun leader singled out the Kocharian government’s deadly post-election crackdown on the opposition in March 2008.

Nikol Pashinian, a deputy from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), similarly cited Oskanian’s alleged responsibility for the 2008 bloodshed. Pashinian, who spent nearly two years in prison as part of that crackdown, said this is a key reason why he will vote for Oskanian’s prosecution despite considering the accusations politically motivated.

It was not clear if the six other HAK deputies will do the same. HAK representatives said their parliamentary faction will announce its stance on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the majority of parliament seats, again effectively confirmed its intention to strip Oskanian of his parliamentary immunity. Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, also denied any government pressure on the BHK. “We were singing the same song as recently as six or seven months ago,” he said.

The BHK was represented in the Armenian government by four ministers until June. Gagik Tsarukian, its top leader close to Kocharian, decided to pull out of the governing coalition following parliamentary elections controversially won by the HHK.

As the parliament discussed Oskanian’s fate several dozen people, most of them Civilitas employees, demonstrated outside the National Assembly building to voice their solidarity with the ex-minister. They booed HHK deputies entering the building and held placards denouncing the ruling party. One protester also carried a banner saying that “The people are with Tsarukian.”

Salpi Ghazarian, the Civilitas director, was among the protesters. “I hope that there are enough honest, sincere, caring and intelligent people in the parliament,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If their aim is to punish Vartan Oskanian for some political considerations, such punishment will primarily hurt Armenia’s reputation.”

Earlier in the day, Civilitas circulated statements by two of its Honorary Board members, Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and U.S.-Armenian rock singer Serj Tankian, condemning the case. “The persecution of Vartan Oskanian is a deplorable and politically motivated action which is extremely dangerous to the health of the country,” said Egoyan.

Source: RFE/RLOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Government v Vardan Oskanian – A Case of Political Persecution or a Crafty Political Ploy?
  2. Persecution ahead of presidential vote?: MP Oskanian insists criminal case against Civilitas “political order”
  3. Al Jazeera refers to Vartan Oskanian and Civilitas Foundation case (video)
  4. “Oskanian Case” reveals extent of political struggle in Armenia ahead of presidential campaign
  5. U.S. Envoy Questions Criminal Case Against Oskanian

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Tensions between President Serzh Sarkisian and his former main coalition partner rose further on Monday when the Armenian parliament debated controversial criminal proceedings launched former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized details of the fraud case as he asked deputies to lift the fellow lawmaker’s legal immunity from prosecution.

Oskanian again strongly denied it as a “political order” directed against himself and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the National Assembly.

Information about the criminal case has been scant until now, with Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) only alleging money-laundering stemming from a lavish donation made to the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank founded by Oskanian, by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. in 2010. The money was generated by the sale of a construction materials plant that was built by Huntsman in Yerevan in the early 1990s. 

In his speech at the National Assembly, Hovsepian said that $1.4 million in proceeds from that deal was transferred to one of Oskanian’s Armenian bank accounts in January 2011. He said the Syrian-born former minister not only failed to deposit the sum with a separate Civilitas account but also spent more than $181,000 of it “for personal purposes.”

“I cannot say publicly which restaurant or hotel bills were paid with that money,” Hovsepian said when pressed by some lawmakers. He said the NSS should therefore be allowed to charge Oskanian with large-scale embezzlement and money laundering.

Corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code carry between 4 and 12 years’ imprisonment.

Oskanian strongly denied misappropriating any portion of the donation, saying that “every penny” of it was transferred to the Civilitas account on Saturday. He as well as several other deputies argued neither Huntsman nor the Civilitas management has filed any complaints about the matter.

x

Armenia — Armenia’s General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian (R) asks the parliament to allow NA deputy Vartan Oskanian’s prosecution in a criminal case of alleged money laundering, 1Oct, 2012

​​Hovsepian dismissed this argument, saying that law-enforcement authorities do not need such a complaint to launch a criminal investigation. He also described as coincidence the fact that the case was opened shortly after Oskanian, who served as foreign minister from 1998-2008, returned to the political arena and began harshly criticizing the government early this year.

Oskanian insisted, however, that the case is politically motivated. “Armenia is preparing for presidential elections and this case is an attempt to exert strong pressure on the BHK ahead of those elections,” he told the parliament. “These authorities are talking to political opponents in the language of hostage takers.”

The BHK leadership likewise claimed to be facing “political persecution” when it reacted to the Armenian authorities’ decision to prosecute Oskanian on Friday. A senior BHK lawmaker, Naira Zohrabian, said during Monday’s debate that the party’s parliamentary faction will walk out of the parliament building when the mostly pro-government deputies vote on the chief prosecutor’s petition on Tuesday. Zohrabian said the BHK will also consider boycotting all parliament sessions in protest.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party said they will also boycott Tuesday’s parliament vote. They too alleged political motives behind the case.

Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian linked it with the presidential ballot due in February. “Either everyone or no one must be stripped of immunity,” Hovannisian told a news conference. “That includes the current and former presidents along with their staffs, the current and former prime ministers and ministers and their staffs, the current and former parliament speakers and deputies.”

Hovannisian said at the same time that Oskanian himself is responsible for past government “repressions” because of having been a key member of former President Robert Kocharian’s administration. The Zharangutyun leader singled out the Kocharian government’s deadly post-election crackdown on the opposition in March 2008.

Nikol Pashinian, a deputy from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), similarly cited Oskanian’s alleged responsibility for the 2008 bloodshed. Pashinian, who spent nearly two years in prison as part of that crackdown, said this is a key reason why he will vote for Oskanian’s prosecution despite considering the accusations politically motivated.

It was not clear if the six other HAK deputies will do the same. HAK representatives said their parliamentary faction will announce its stance on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the majority of parliament seats, again effectively confirmed its intention to strip Oskanian of his parliamentary immunity. Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, also denied any government pressure on the BHK. “We were singing the same song as recently as six or seven months ago,” he said.

The BHK was represented in the Armenian government by four ministers until June. Gagik Tsarukian, its top leader close to Kocharian, decided to pull out of the governing coalition following parliamentary elections controversially won by the HHK.

As the parliament discussed Oskanian’s fate several dozen people, most of them Civilitas employees, demonstrated outside the National Assembly building to voice their solidarity with the ex-minister. They booed HHK deputies entering the building and held placards denouncing the ruling party. One protester also carried a banner saying that “The people are with Tsarukian.”

Salpi Ghazarian, the Civilitas director, was among the protesters. “I hope that there are enough honest, sincere, caring and intelligent people in the parliament,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If their aim is to punish Vartan Oskanian for some political considerations, such punishment will primarily hurt Armenia’s reputation.”

Earlier in the day, Civilitas circulated statements by two of its Honorary Board members, Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and U.S.-Armenian rock singer Serj Tankian, condemning the case. “The persecution of Vartan Oskanian is a deplorable and politically motivated action which is extremely dangerous to the health of the country,” said Egoyan.

Source: RFE/RLOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Government v Vardan Oskanian – A Case of Political Persecution or a Crafty Political Ploy?
  2. Persecution ahead of presidential vote?: MP Oskanian insists criminal case against Civilitas “political order”
  3. Al Jazeera refers to Vartan Oskanian and Civilitas Foundation case (video)
  4. “Oskanian Case” reveals extent of political struggle in Armenia ahead of presidential campaign
  5. U.S. Envoy Questions Criminal Case Against Oskanian

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Tensions between President Serzh Sarkisian and his former main coalition partner rose further on Monday when the Armenian parliament debated controversial criminal proceedings launched former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized details of the fraud case as he asked deputies to lift the fellow lawmaker’s legal immunity from prosecution.

Oskanian again strongly denied it as a “political order” directed against himself and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the National Assembly.

Information about the criminal case has been scant until now, with Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) only alleging money-laundering stemming from a lavish donation made to the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank founded by Oskanian, by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. in 2010. The money was generated by the sale of a construction materials plant that was built by Huntsman in Yerevan in the early 1990s. 

In his speech at the National Assembly, Hovsepian said that $1.4 million in proceeds from that deal was transferred to one of Oskanian’s Armenian bank accounts in January 2011. He said the Syrian-born former minister not only failed to deposit the sum with a separate Civilitas account but also spent more than $181,000 of it “for personal purposes.”

“I cannot say publicly which restaurant or hotel bills were paid with that money,” Hovsepian said when pressed by some lawmakers. He said the NSS should therefore be allowed to charge Oskanian with large-scale embezzlement and money laundering.

Corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code carry between 4 and 12 years’ imprisonment.

Oskanian strongly denied misappropriating any portion of the donation, saying that “every penny” of it was transferred to the Civilitas account on Saturday. He as well as several other deputies argued neither Huntsman nor the Civilitas management has filed any complaints about the matter.

x

Armenia — Armenia’s General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian (R) asks the parliament to allow NA deputy Vartan Oskanian’s prosecution in a criminal case of alleged money laundering, 1Oct, 2012

​​Hovsepian dismissed this argument, saying that law-enforcement authorities do not need such a complaint to launch a criminal investigation. He also described as coincidence the fact that the case was opened shortly after Oskanian, who served as foreign minister from 1998-2008, returned to the political arena and began harshly criticizing the government early this year.

Oskanian insisted, however, that the case is politically motivated. “Armenia is preparing for presidential elections and this case is an attempt to exert strong pressure on the BHK ahead of those elections,” he told the parliament. “These authorities are talking to political opponents in the language of hostage takers.”

The BHK leadership likewise claimed to be facing “political persecution” when it reacted to the Armenian authorities’ decision to prosecute Oskanian on Friday. A senior BHK lawmaker, Naira Zohrabian, said during Monday’s debate that the party’s parliamentary faction will walk out of the parliament building when the mostly pro-government deputies vote on the chief prosecutor’s petition on Tuesday. Zohrabian said the BHK will also consider boycotting all parliament sessions in protest.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party said they will also boycott Tuesday’s parliament vote. They too alleged political motives behind the case.

Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian linked it with the presidential ballot due in February. “Either everyone or no one must be stripped of immunity,” Hovannisian told a news conference. “That includes the current and former presidents along with their staffs, the current and former prime ministers and ministers and their staffs, the current and former parliament speakers and deputies.”

Hovannisian said at the same time that Oskanian himself is responsible for past government “repressions” because of having been a key member of former President Robert Kocharian’s administration. The Zharangutyun leader singled out the Kocharian government’s deadly post-election crackdown on the opposition in March 2008.

Nikol Pashinian, a deputy from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), similarly cited Oskanian’s alleged responsibility for the 2008 bloodshed. Pashinian, who spent nearly two years in prison as part of that crackdown, said this is a key reason why he will vote for Oskanian’s prosecution despite considering the accusations politically motivated.

It was not clear if the six other HAK deputies will do the same. HAK representatives said their parliamentary faction will announce its stance on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the majority of parliament seats, again effectively confirmed its intention to strip Oskanian of his parliamentary immunity. Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, also denied any government pressure on the BHK. “We were singing the same song as recently as six or seven months ago,” he said.

The BHK was represented in the Armenian government by four ministers until June. Gagik Tsarukian, its top leader close to Kocharian, decided to pull out of the governing coalition following parliamentary elections controversially won by the HHK.

As the parliament discussed Oskanian’s fate several dozen people, most of them Civilitas employees, demonstrated outside the National Assembly building to voice their solidarity with the ex-minister. They booed HHK deputies entering the building and held placards denouncing the ruling party. One protester also carried a banner saying that “The people are with Tsarukian.”

Salpi Ghazarian, the Civilitas director, was among the protesters. “I hope that there are enough honest, sincere, caring and intelligent people in the parliament,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If their aim is to punish Vartan Oskanian for some political considerations, such punishment will primarily hurt Armenia’s reputation.”

Earlier in the day, Civilitas circulated statements by two of its Honorary Board members, Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and U.S.-Armenian rock singer Serj Tankian, condemning the case. “The persecution of Vartan Oskanian is a deplorable and politically motivated action which is extremely dangerous to the health of the country,” said Egoyan.

Source: RFE/RLOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Government v Vardan Oskanian – A Case of Political Persecution or a Crafty Political Ploy?
  2. Persecution ahead of presidential vote?: MP Oskanian insists criminal case against Civilitas “political order”
  3. Al Jazeera refers to Vartan Oskanian and Civilitas Foundation case (video)
  4. “Oskanian Case” reveals extent of political struggle in Armenia ahead of presidential campaign
  5. U.S. Envoy Questions Criminal Case Against Oskanian

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

Tensions between President Serzh Sarkisian and his former main coalition partner rose further on Monday when the Armenian parliament debated controversial criminal proceedings launched former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized details of the fraud case as he asked deputies to lift the fellow lawmaker’s legal immunity from prosecution.

Oskanian again strongly denied it as a “political order” directed against himself and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the National Assembly.

Information about the criminal case has been scant until now, with Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) only alleging money-laundering stemming from a lavish donation made to the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank founded by Oskanian, by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. in 2010. The money was generated by the sale of a construction materials plant that was built by Huntsman in Yerevan in the early 1990s. 

In his speech at the National Assembly, Hovsepian said that $1.4 million in proceeds from that deal was transferred to one of Oskanian’s Armenian bank accounts in January 2011. He said the Syrian-born former minister not only failed to deposit the sum with a separate Civilitas account but also spent more than $181,000 of it “for personal purposes.”

“I cannot say publicly which restaurant or hotel bills were paid with that money,” Hovsepian said when pressed by some lawmakers. He said the NSS should therefore be allowed to charge Oskanian with large-scale embezzlement and money laundering.

Corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code carry between 4 and 12 years’ imprisonment.

Oskanian strongly denied misappropriating any portion of the donation, saying that “every penny” of it was transferred to the Civilitas account on Saturday. He as well as several other deputies argued neither Huntsman nor the Civilitas management has filed any complaints about the matter.

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Armenia — Armenia’s General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian (R) asks the parliament to allow NA deputy Vartan Oskanian’s prosecution in a criminal case of alleged money laundering, 1Oct, 2012

​​Hovsepian dismissed this argument, saying that law-enforcement authorities do not need such a complaint to launch a criminal investigation. He also described as coincidence the fact that the case was opened shortly after Oskanian, who served as foreign minister from 1998-2008, returned to the political arena and began harshly criticizing the government early this year.

Oskanian insisted, however, that the case is politically motivated. “Armenia is preparing for presidential elections and this case is an attempt to exert strong pressure on the BHK ahead of those elections,” he told the parliament. “These authorities are talking to political opponents in the language of hostage takers.”

The BHK leadership likewise claimed to be facing “political persecution” when it reacted to the Armenian authorities’ decision to prosecute Oskanian on Friday. A senior BHK lawmaker, Naira Zohrabian, said during Monday’s debate that the party’s parliamentary faction will walk out of the parliament building when the mostly pro-government deputies vote on the chief prosecutor’s petition on Tuesday. Zohrabian said the BHK will also consider boycotting all parliament sessions in protest.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party said they will also boycott Tuesday’s parliament vote. They too alleged political motives behind the case.

Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian linked it with the presidential ballot due in February. “Either everyone or no one must be stripped of immunity,” Hovannisian told a news conference. “That includes the current and former presidents along with their staffs, the current and former prime ministers and ministers and their staffs, the current and former parliament speakers and deputies.”

Hovannisian said at the same time that Oskanian himself is responsible for past government “repressions” because of having been a key member of former President Robert Kocharian’s administration. The Zharangutyun leader singled out the Kocharian government’s deadly post-election crackdown on the opposition in March 2008.

Nikol Pashinian, a deputy from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), similarly cited Oskanian’s alleged responsibility for the 2008 bloodshed. Pashinian, who spent nearly two years in prison as part of that crackdown, said this is a key reason why he will vote for Oskanian’s prosecution despite considering the accusations politically motivated.

It was not clear if the six other HAK deputies will do the same. HAK representatives said their parliamentary faction will announce its stance on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the majority of parliament seats, again effectively confirmed its intention to strip Oskanian of his parliamentary immunity. Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, also denied any government pressure on the BHK. “We were singing the same song as recently as six or seven months ago,” he said.

The BHK was represented in the Armenian government by four ministers until June. Gagik Tsarukian, its top leader close to Kocharian, decided to pull out of the governing coalition following parliamentary elections controversially won by the HHK.

As the parliament discussed Oskanian’s fate several dozen people, most of them Civilitas employees, demonstrated outside the National Assembly building to voice their solidarity with the ex-minister. They booed HHK deputies entering the building and held placards denouncing the ruling party. One protester also carried a banner saying that “The people are with Tsarukian.”

Salpi Ghazarian, the Civilitas director, was among the protesters. “I hope that there are enough honest, sincere, caring and intelligent people in the parliament,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If their aim is to punish Vartan Oskanian for some political considerations, such punishment will primarily hurt Armenia’s reputation.”

Earlier in the day, Civilitas circulated statements by two of its Honorary Board members, Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and U.S.-Armenian rock singer Serj Tankian, condemning the case. “The persecution of Vartan Oskanian is a deplorable and politically motivated action which is extremely dangerous to the health of the country,” said Egoyan.

Source: RFE/RLOriginial Article

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For Better or For Worse: Nature Protection Ministry Proposes Amendments to Water Use Laws

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16:44, February 14, 2014

With the goal of providing a systematic solution to issues of effective use of water resources in Ararat valley, the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia (RA) is proposing amendments and additions to the RA Water Code, and the RA laws on the Republic of Armenia’s National Water Program, on Licensing, and on State Tax.

The proposed legislative package has been sent to the relevant state agencies for their input.

Head of the Ministry of Nature Protection’s Water Resources Management Agency Volodya Narimanyan told Hetq, said that with this amendment package his ministry is attempting to clarify the ideas and the ambiguous commentary, as well as introduce new requirements. For example, one of the main points of the proposed amendments is if water use permit conditions are not met, the water use permit might be annulled.

“In the past, if water use conditions weren’t met, we couldn’t void the permit, but now we’re making that clear. If the state gives you a water use permit with this condition, be kind and meet this condition; otherwise, we will make the permit null and void,” he explained.

A new requirement in the proposed package concerning the execution of drilling operations stipulates that a drilling company or individual must obtain a license so that the state can supervise its activities. “Those companies that execute drilling must have a license for drilling. That is, we are proposing to license activities,” he added.

After the relevant state bodies discuss and submit their opinions regarding the amendments, Narimanyan says, the package will be sent to the RA Ministry of Justice, the government, then finally to parliament.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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2013 in Civil Society: Protests and more protests

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The struggle of civil movements this year has been comprehensive and diverse with limited success in certain fields due to unified efforts and active involvement of the civil society.

Despite the rather passive start of the year in terms of civil movements, the second half of 2013 turned out to be tense with active developments.

Some analysts believe that especially after the February 18 presidential ballot, when current president Serzh Sargsyan won a decisive victory over his opponents and was re-elected for a second term, despite the widespread poverty and atmosphere of injustice in the country, people became even more aware of the fact that is it impossible to achieve changes via elections and started practicing their constitutional rights to civil protest and disobedience more frequently.

Karabakh war veterans’ civil standoff has been unprecedented. Although, every now and then on different occasions they had complained of their social conditions and of being neglected by the state , however never before had they come out to hold systematic rallies and sitting strikes. Retired army colonel Volodya Avetisyan initiated the civil standoff in May and in October found himself behind the bars, with charges of “swindling …in large amounts”. Avetisyan’s and his comrades-in-arms claim that by bringing charges the authorities are trying to silence him. The war vets demanding increase of their pensions and various privileges have now focused their struggle on various acts of protest in Avetisyan’s support. There is another group of Karabakh war veterans presenting political demands to the government. Every Thursday they hold small rallies in Liberty Square and demand that the government resign.

Yerevan mayor Taron Margaryan’s decision to raise public bus fare by 50 percent made the hot Yerevan summer even hotter.

The decision was immediately followed by a civil movement when numerous young activists held a variety of acts of protest during five consecutive days relentlessly struggling, rebelling against the bus fare increase and made the municipal government in the Armenian capital heed the people’s voice, forcing them to understand they would not pay more for using the overloaded, worn-out and hardly functioning minibuses.

The unified effort yielded results and on July 26 the mayor suspended the application of his decision temporarily, meaning that the buses and minibuses continued operating for the same 100 dram fare (around 24 cents). The mayor, however, stated that if residents of Yerevan wanted to have decent public transport services, they have to be ready to pay more. Municipal officials and transport companies running the routes have repeatedly stated after the summer civil standoff that the rise of bus fare is unavoidable, grounding it by the fact that everything else has become more expensive except for public transport services, hence their expenses have grown and they are operating at a loss.

The departing year has turned out to be rather active also in terms of public protests against controversial construction projects. In August, residents of 10 and 12 Sayat-Nova Avenue and 5 Komitas streets, in Yerevan, rebelled against construction in their neighborhoods. These people claim that the construction licenses in densely populated zones of the city are illegal, violate the seismic resistance norms, and block their light. Despite the variety of measures the residents have resorted to, even lying down in front of construction machines to block their way, no tangible results have been achieved; their struggle is ongoing (h).

Despite a drawn-out battle to preserve unchanged Yerevan’s Pak Shuka (“Covered Market”), on the list of historical-cultural heritage and belonging to businessman MP Samvel Alexanyan, opened its doors after two years of repairs, but now as a fashionable supermarket, rather than the produce market it used to be. Although ruling Republican MP Alexanyan kept the fa

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Armenian Foreign Policies 2013: Customs Union, U-turn on EU accord, Karabakh, Turkey, regional developments

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2013 became a milestone year for Armenia not only in its foreign, but also domestic politics. After nearly four years of negotiations with the European Union over the signing of an association agreement on September 3 Armenia unexpectedly announced its intention to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This decision has had its influence not only on Armenia proper, but also on the processes elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Inspired by Armenia’s decision, Russia stepped up its pressure on Ukraine, which suspended the process of signing of the Association Agreement with the EU one week before the Vilnius summit of Eastern Partnership. As a result, on November 29 such agreements were initialed only by Moldova and Georgia.

During the year there has been an ongoing debate in Armenia and other post-Soviet countries about whether it is expedient “to revive a new Soviet empire” under the name of a Eurasian Union. But at the end of the year plans to create such a union remain relevant – in May 2014 Armenia is going to be one of the six founders of the Eurasian Union (along with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan).

Before September 3, Armenia was actively engaged with Europe, stating about shared values and ‘civilizational’ approaches. Armenia even dared reproach Russia for selling offensive weapons to Azerbaijan.

After September 3, however, Armenia suddenly remembered its centuries-old friendship with Russia as well as Russia’s ‘salutary’ role. Pro-Russian rhetoric increased and some even stated the readiness to return to the Russian Empire. In particular, publicist Zori Balayan wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, mentioning the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813, according to which, as a result of the Russian-Persian war, Persia renounced claims to Karabakh that went under Russia’s control.

The Russia-West struggle for post-Soviet countries, including for Armenia, in 2013 came out of its passive phase and acquired the character of an open confrontation. In the course of this battle all methods were employed – from economic blackmail to high-level visits. In particular, the visit by Putin to Armenia on December 2, as some analysts say, marked Armenia’s losing another portion of its sovereignty and security to Russia.

There have been some new developments in the Karabakh settlement process as well. In particular, on November 19, in Vienna, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev, met for the first time in almost two years. During the meeting some new proposals were apparently discussed. The talks were confidential, but on the basis of available information experts assume that Russia and Turkey are promoting the project of opening the Turkish-Armenian border at the expense of Armenia’s concessions on two districts around Karabakh. The U.S. and Europe appear to insist on settlement and opening of communications while maintaining the current status quo in Karabakh.

Partially this version was confirmed on the eve of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s visit to Yerevan on December 12 (he was attending a regional organization’s forum in the Armenian capital). The Turkish press openly reported the offer from Turkey, but President Sargsyan did not receive Davutoglu, while Minister Edward Nalbandian stated that preconditions are unacceptable in Armenian-Turkish normalization.

The sudden change in the policy of Armenia, according to analysts, could lead to some adjustments in the positions of Armenia on relations with Turkey. At the beginning of 2013 Yerevan set up a commission to study possible legal claims to Turkey. The body was headed by the then Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepyan. It was followed by assumptions that in 2015, when the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will be marked, Armenia, with the support of the West, intends to advance serious claims to Turkey. However, the commission has not yet taken any public steps, and after September 3 decisions on claims to Turkey may already be made through Moscow.

Turkey has made no secret of its concern, especially in connection with the probability of combined Kurdish and Armenian claims. In this regard, Turkey has launched a wide-ranging process of reconciliation with the Kurds. 2013 became auspicious also for the Kurdish movement as the prospect of establishing Kurdistan became even closer.

The agreement on the conflict in Syria became an important event of the year also for Armenia in view of the sizable ethnic Armenian community in this Middle Eastern country. In accordance with this agreement, the world power centers decided not to support any side in the Syrian conflict, to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons and lead the country to democratic elections in 2014.

An even more significant agreement was reached by the end of the year on Iran’s nuclear program, which immediately led to the lifting of a number of sanctions that had been imposed on the Islamic Republic by the West and its activation in regional politics. In particular, Iran immediately tried to offer natural gas to Armenia that would apparently be less expensive than Russia’s. Projects in energy and communication sectors have also become more relevant in view of the recent developments and Armenia may play an important role in them.

Source: Armenia NowOriginial Article

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Heritage reshuffle: Postanjyan becomes new leader of parliamentary faction

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Zaruhi Postanjyan has been elected new head of the opposition Heritage faction in parliament. The change comes after Ruben Hakobyan announced his decision to resign as faction leader earlier today.

Talking to media in parliament Hakobyan said Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian had been notified about his move well in advance. He left questions about reasons for his step without commentary, only saying that he had decided to step down as faction leader before the recent scandal around Postanjyan in the wake of her controversial question to President Serzh Sargsyan about his gambling habit at the PACE plenary session in Strasbourg on October 2.

Unlike a majority of Heritage members Hakobyan then was critical of Postanjyan’s behavior. Representatives of the ruling party in Armenia called her statement in Strasbourg slanderous and the parliament speaker threatened to expel her from the Armenian delegation to the PACE.

Postanjian, meanwhile, would not be drawn into speculation about the reasons for Hakobyan’s decision either.

Source: Armenia NowOriginial Article

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