YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian National Assembly has refused to allow the arrest of one of its deputies for what the state prosecutors say is racketeering and money extortion. The parliament on Wednesday turned down a request by the country’s prosecutor general to strip Nver Chakhoyan–a member of the second largest Hanrapetutyun faction–of immunity and allow his prosecution.
Addressing the parliament–Prosecutor General Henrik Khachatrian charged that for several years Chakhoyan extorted money from the owner of a restaurant in central Yerevan–using threats and blackmail–and eventually became its owner. The prosecutor said there is sufficient evidence to allow for Chakhoyan’s arrest and subsequent trial. But Chakhoyan denied the charges–saying that they are part of a "political order."
The prosecutor’s request also provoked a strongly negative reaction from other members of Hanrapetutyun. The faction’s leader and former parliament speaker Babken Ararktsian–slammed the law-enforcement bodies for "exceeding their responsibilities." Only 11 out of more than one hundred present deputies voted for the measure. Hanrapetutyun is allied with former President Levon Ter-Petrosyan. It lost its majority in the parliament after dozens of its deputies defected to the rival camp supporting the current President Robert Kocharian last February.