RFE/RL Armenian Report – 06/24/2022


Armenian ‘Coup Plotters’ Win European Court Case

        • Naira Bulghadarian

Armenia - An alleged 2015 photograph of members of an Armenian militant group 
arrested on coup charges.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Armenian investigators 
violated the rights of the leader and two members of a clandestine militant 
group that had allegedly plotted to overthrow former President Serzh Sarkisian.

The ringleader, Vartanian, and a dozen other individuals were arrested in 
November 2015 in a dawn raid on their hideout in Yerevan jointly conducted by 
Armenia’s police and National Security Service (NSS). The law-enforcement bodies 
found large quantities of weapons and explosives stashed there. They made more 
than 20 other arrests in the following weeks.

The NSS said afterwards that Vartanian set up a group called the Armenian Shield 
Regiment before drawing up with his associates detailed plans for the seizure of 
the presidential administration, government, parliament and state television 
buildings in Yerevan. It said they also explored the possibility of shooting 
down President Sarkisian’s plane.

Armenia - Security forces detain a man in a raid on a house in Yerevan's Nork 
district, 25Nov2015.

Vartanian admitted acquiring weapons and ammunition for the militant group when 
he and 19 other persons went on trial in December 2016. He insisted, however, 
that he never intended to seize power or assassinate Sarkisian.

Most of the other defendants, including an Armenian Catholic priest, also 
rejected the coup charges brought against them.

The judge presiding over the continuing trial agreed to free Vartanian on bail 
in September 2019. All other arrested suspects were released from custody 
earlier pending a court verdict in the case. Two of them had joined Vartanian in 
challenging their pre-trial arrest in the ECHR.

The Strasbourg-based court ruled this week that the detention period was too 
long and unjustified and violated a relevant article of the European Convention 
on Human Rights. It said that Vartanian and another plaintiff, Harutiun 
Saribekian, must each be paid 6,000 euros ($6,300) in damages.

Armenia - Artur Vartanian, the main defendant in the trial of 20 people accused 
of plotting a coup détat, at a courtroom in Yerevan, 17Mar2017.

Vartanian expressed his satisfaction with the ECRH ruling when he spoke to 
RFE/RL’s Armenian on Friday after the latest session of his protracted trial.

“The European Court found that justifications presented by prosecutors and 
investigators were unfounded,” he said.

Vartanian reportedly lived in Spain before returning to Armenia in April 2015 
and setting up the Armenian Shield Regiment.

According to the NSS, core members of the group underwent secret military 
training in Vartanian’s paternal village in August-September 2015. Investigators 
released in late 2016 a photograph, purportedly taken in a village house, of ten 
masked and armed persons standing under the group’s banner.

Armenia, Azerbaijan Trade Fresh Barbs

        • Aza Babayan

Azerbaijan - Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Russian Foreign 
Minister Sergei Lavrov meet in Baku, June24, 2022

Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of not honoring their Russian-brokered 
agreements during Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s latest visit to Baku 
concluded on Friday.

Meeting with Lavrov on Thursday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev complained 
that Armenia has still not open road and railway links connecting Azerbaijan to 
its Nakhichevan exclave. He said Moscow should press Yerevan to do that in line 
with the ceasefire agreement that stopped the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Aliyev also claimed that Yerevan has still not reacted to his proposals 
regarding an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty sought by Baku.

In March this year, Azerbaijan presented Armenia with five elements which it 
wants to be at the heart of the treaty. They include a mutual recognition of 
each other’s territorial integrity. The Armenian government said they should be 
complemented by other issues relating to the future of status of Karabakh and 
the security of its population.

In written comments to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, Foreign Minister Ararat 
Mirzoyan pointed to those counterproposals and said Baku has still not 
officially responded to them.

“We see nothing unacceptable in Azerbaijan’s proposals regarding the future 
peace treaty while complementing those proposals with our ideas,” he said.

Mirzoyan also insisted that the Armenian side is interested in transport links 
between the two South Caucasus states. He said their opening has been hampered 
by “baseless” Azerbaijani demands for an exterritorial corridor for Nakhichevan.

Mirzoyan also said that Azerbaijan still holds dozens of Armenian prisoners in 
breach of the 2020 ceasefire.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov echoed Aliyev’s claims after 
holding talks with Lavrov on Friday.

“The artificial dragging of the negotiating process carries very serious risks,” 
Bayramov warned at a joint news conference.

Lavrov said, for his part, that Russia will continue to help the two sides 
negotiate a comprehensive peace accord, demarcate the Armenian-Azerbaijani 
border and open it to travel and commerce.

Visiting Yerevan earlier this month, Lavrov said the Armenian, Azerbaijani and 
Russian governments are now finalizing a deal on a “simplified” border control 
regime for the planned road to Nakhichevan. The road will be under Armenian 
control, he said.

Armenia’s Chief Judicial Officer Refuses To Quit Over Audio Scandal

        • Naira Nalbandian
        • Karlen Aslanian

Armenia - Gagik Jahangirian, the acting chairman of the Supreme Judicial 
Council, at a news conference in Yerevan, August 2, 2021.

Gagik Jahangirian, the controversial acting head of Armenia’s judicial watchdog, 
has dismissed calls for his resignation sparked by leaked audio in which he 
appeared to blackmail his predecessor at loggerheads with the government.

“I have never been forced by any political force, alliance to tender 
resignation,” the former senior prosecutor told Armenian Public Television in an 
interview aired late on Thursday.

Ruben Vartazarian, the previous chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), 
publicized on Monday a 14-minute audio clip which he secretly recorded during a 
dinner meeting with Jahangirian in February 2021. The meeting took place two 
months before Vartazarian was controversially suspended as SJC chairman amid 
rising tensions with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

In the recording full of profanities uttered by him, Jahangirian can be heard 
seemingly warning Vartazarian to resign or face criminal charges. He says that 
he has already blocked the opening of one or two criminal cases against the 

Speaking to the state-controlled TV channel, Jahangirian claimed that he was not 
in a position to trigger or halt any criminal proceedings and simply tried to 
trick Vartazarian into resigning.

“Do you think that Mr. Vartazarian would write a resignation letter if he knew 
that there will be cases against him and no guarantees that he will not be 
punished later on?” he said, adding that he simply used “psychological ploys.”

Armenia - Gagik Jahangirian chairs a session of the Supreme Judicial Council, 
April 4, 2022

Opposition and civic groups are bound to brush aside this explanation. They have 
said that Jahangirian must be not only sacked but also prosecuted for what they 
see as blackmail and illegal interference in the work of law-enforcement 

One of those agencies, the Investigative Committee, reportedly interrogated 
Vartazarian on Thursday in a preliminary inquiry into the audio scandal. It is 
not clear whether the committee will also question Jahangirian.

Despite the uproar, the SJC has refused to even start disciplinary proceedings 
against its acting chairman. The powerful body, which nominates Armenian judges 
and can also fire them, instead formally dismissed Vartazarian as its nominal 
chairman and member on Thursday.

Jahangirian also says in the leaked recording that a key motive behind his 
attempts to convince Vartazarian to quit is to prevent Robert Kocharian, a 
former president and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s leading political foe, 
from returning to power.

Jahangirian told Public Television, however, that he was solely motivated by the 
need for sweeping judicial reforms in Armenia. He claimed that implementation of 
such reforms has been his lifetime “mission.”

The 67-year-old was accused of grave human rights violations when he served as 
Armenia’s chief military prosecutor and deputy prosecutor-general in 1997-2006 
and 2006-2008 respectively. Local human rights activists say that official 
cover-ups of crimes committed in the armed forces were the norm during his 

Armenia - Human rights activist Zhanna Aleksania, February 4, 2021.
“I know him as a bad military prosecutor who neglected people and covered up 
cases,” one such activist, Zhanna Aleksanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. 
“Putting him at the helm of the judiciary was absurd.”

“He should not have been appointed to such a position,” said Aleksanian. “He has 
a very bad biography.”

Jahangirian was appointed as a member of the SJC in January 2021 by the Armenian 
parliament controlled by Pashinian’s Civil Contract party. Lawmakers 
representing the party remained reluctant on Friday to comment on the audio 
scandal and the resulting calls for Jahangirian’s resignation.

Opposition leaders have portrayed the recording as further proof of their claims 
that Western-backed “judicial reforms” declared by Pashinian’s administration 
are in fact aimed at increasing government influence on Armenian courts.

In a statement issued earlier this week, the main opposition Hayastan alliance 
urged the U.S. and European Union ambassadors in Yerevan to comment on the 
scandal and say whether they still support the stated reforms.

Taguhi Tovmasian, the chairwoman of the Armenian parliament’s human rights 
committee affiliated with another opposition group, said on Friday that she has 
sent the transcript of the recording to international organizations for the same 

Tovmasian said she asked them to answer the following question: “How can the 
Supreme Judicial Council interfere in any criminal case for political 
considerations in a country that has declared itself democratic?”

Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2022 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.


Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS