YEREVAN — Armenia’s Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), a state body overseeing the country’s judiciary, decided on April 15 to terminate the powers of Ruben Vardazaryan as chairman of SJC and a court judge, pending the investigation into a criminal case initiated against him.

According to the Judicial Code, the duties of the chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council will be performed by Gagik Jahangiryan, the oldest member of the Council.

The decision to terminate Vardazaryan’s powers was made on the basis of information provided by the Office of Prosecutor General about opening a criminal case against Vardazaryan.

In early March Vardazaryan faced a barrage of harsh criticism from lawmakers representing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s My Step bloc during a question-and-answer session in the parliament. The lawmakers accused him of siding with opposition groups seeking to make Pashinyan step down.

Vartazarian stands accused of abusing his powers to interfere in the work of a court. He confirmed reports that the accusation is based on incriminating testimony given by Andranik Simonyan, a newly appointed deputy director of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS).

Simonyan worked as a judge of the court of first instance of the country’s northern Lori province until being moved to the NSS by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian late last month.

Vartazarian dismissed the charges leveled against him, saying that they are part of government attempts to oust and replace him with Gagik Jahangirian.

Vardazaryan headed the Supreme Judicial Council for almost two years.

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