YEREVAN — A court in Yerevan on Sunday refused to allow law-enforcement authorities to arrest Gagik Tsarukyan, a wealthy businessman leading the main opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), on charges strongly denied by him.
The National Security Service (NSS) charged Tsarukyan with vote buying and moved to arrest him after the Armenian parliament lifted his immunity from prosecution on June 16.
The NSS says that Tsarukyan “created and led an organized group” that bought more than 17,000 votes for the BHK during parliamentary elections held in 2017. It claims to have collected documents and testimony showing that the vote bribes were handed out to residents of the Gegharkunik province.
The district court in the Armenian capital rejected the arrest warrant request for Tsarukyan following three-day hearings that ended on Friday. It did not immediately publicize its reasons for the decision.
Tsarukyan refused to talk to journalists when he came out of the court building in Yerevan moments after the announcement of the decision. “Ask my lawyers,” he said before getting in his car.
Armenian prosecutors condemned the court’s refusal to sanction Tsarukian’s pre-trial arrest as “baseless and illegal” and said they will appeal against the ruling.
A spokesman for Prosecutor-General Artur Davtyan said that the court “ignored” legitimate justifications of the arrest presented by the investigators. The official, Gor Abrahamyan, said that Tsarukyan could obstruct the investigation and exert “illegal influence” on other suspects in the case if he is not placed under arrest.