CEC Rejects Hovanessian Candidacy

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Armenian Central Electoral Commission announced Thursday that Armenian Revolutionary Executive Council member Vahan Hovanessian’s candidacy petition for an open National Assembly seat in the 108th electoral district of Armavir was rejected.

The CEC based its decision on a recommendation by Armenia’s Prosecutor General (Justice Minister) Artavazd Gevorkian who stated that Hovanessian’s release from prison would greatly hinder the ongoing "Trial of 31."

According to Armenia’s election laws–an incarcerated individual’s candidacy may be approved by the CEC following a report by Armenia’s Prosecutor General. Another point in the same article maintains that an incarcerated candidate must be provided another form of punishment in order to duly take part in an election campaign.

The Prosecutor General’s assessment paved the way for a heated debate during the CEC session given that by accepting Hovanessian’s candidacy application–he would have to be released from prison.

There were several suggestions and discussion points–the first of which called for approving Hovanessian’s application given that the more than year-long trial has not yielded any proof on state charges as well as the presumption of innocence clause provided by the constitution.

CEC members in favor of registering Hovanessian’s candidacy reminded the commission that per Armenia’s election laws–a decision on registering an incarcerated candidate could be appealed within three days by either side.

The second opinion expressed was a blatant rejection of the candidate’s application based on the aforementioned evaluation by the Prosecutor General.

The third opinion called for abstention from voting by the entire commission–rationalizing that an evaluation on the matter should be presented not by the Prosecutor General but rather the presiding judge in the "Trial of 31" case–since it has been more that a year that the court has been deliberating state charges that Hovanessian had allegedly organized and advocated for the forceful overthrow of the government.

The Prosecutor General’s representatives answered the commission’s questions–following which Hovanessian’s application was rejected by a vote of 11 (members representing the "Republic" parliamentary faction and Shamiram) to 3 (National Self-Determination Union and National Democratic Union representatives) and 4 abstentions (Communist party and two members of the "Republic" faction). On the 20 member commission 18 were present at the meeting.

Hovanessian’s representatives have three days to appeal this decision.

Meanwhile–the Thursday session of the "Trial of 31" was postponed due to Hovanessian’s deteriorating health–however that did not stop the national security ministry’s warden to refuse a petition to visit Hovanessian from his defense counsel Hovaness Assryan.

The National Security Ministry prison official told Assryan that his request was being denied due to Hovanessian’s health.

Doctors have not yet determined the exact nature of Hovanessian’s ailment–although they did state that he suffered a heart attack during the Wednesday session of "Trial of 31."

Hovanessian received a get well wish from fellow ARF member and co-defendant in the so-called "Dro" trial Hrant Markarian–who also sent him a homemade herbal remedy and wished him a speedy recovery.

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