YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia’s Court of Appeal on Tuesday overturned a lower court’s recent decision to release Manvel Grigorian, a retired army general prosecuted on corruption charges, from custody on bail, paving the way for his renewed arrest.
“This means that Manvel Grigorian will be arrested today,” a senior prosecutor, Vahagn Muradian, told reporters. He hailed the high court’s decision as “legal and substantiated.”
Grigorian was taken back to a prison in downtown in Yerevan a few hours later.
Grigorian was first arrested in June when security forces raided his properties in and around the town of Echmiadzin. They found many weapons, ammunition, medication and field rations for soldiers provided by the Armenian Defense Ministry. They also discovered canned food and several vehicles donated by Armenians at one of Grigorian’s mansions.
The once powerful general, who served as deputy defense minister from 2000-2008, denies the accusations of illegal arms possession and embezzlement leveled against him.
A district court in Yerevan ordered Grigorian’s release on health grounds on December 21. The 62-year-old suffers from a number of serious illnesses, reportedly including cancer.
Armenian prosecutors were quick to appeal against that court order. Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian insisted on December 24 that Grigorian’s illnesses are “not incompatible with incarceration.” The suspect could obstruct justice if he remains at large, said Davtian.
Grigorian’s lawyers subsequently objected to the choice of a Court of Appeals judge dealing with the case. The judge, Arsen Nikoghosian, twice rejected their demands to abandon the case before ordering Grigorian’s renewed arrest.
One of the defense lawyers, Arsen Mkrtchian, charged that the decision was “made under pressure” and “has nothing to do with the law, jurisprudence and common sense.”
Grigorian’s release from pretrial detention provoked a series of angry demonstrations in Echmiadzin, the general’s place of residence until his arrest. Hundreds of local residents repeatedly blocked a nearby highway to demand that he be sent back to prison.