Former Armenian president to front court on fraud charges

sarkisan trial
Photo: David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters

Armenia’s former president Serzh Sarkisian will go on trial in Yerevan today on charges of embezzlement and corruption involving more than $1 million.

The Special Investigative Service has alleged that Sarkisian allocated diesel fuel supply contracts to a businessman friend instead of another fuel importer, who offered a lower price. Sarkisian and his now out-of-power Republican Party of Armenia have denied the charges and have alleged that their November speech against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian is the real reason for their trial. Sarkisian had accused Pashinian’s government of stifling dissent and democracy in the speech.

The current government is on track to hold a constitutional referendum on April 5, which if passed will allow the legislature to appoint Constitutional Court judges and thus hold power in all branches of government. Pashinian needs about 648,000 “yes” votes for the constitutional amendment. Other political groups are urging citizens to boycott the campaign, which may negatively affect Pashinian’s chances at succeeding.

Success in the upcoming referendum will establish one-party rule in the country, which can be expected to steer the trial against Sarkisian. However, given public and government opposition to Sarkisian’s supposed nepotism and large-scale corruption, the trial may go against him irrespective of the amendment.

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