2020 January 15
Jan/15/2020 :: Daily news collection from Armenia :: Stay informed about the Anti-Corruption busts, Politics, Economy, Diaspora, Daily Life, and more...
Disclaimer: All the accused are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law, even if they may sound as being guilty. Currency in Armenian Drams ֏ unless specified otherwise.
Today's post includes major developments around law enforcement agencies and the Constitution.
Styopa Safaryan is the Public Council president and a Kocharyan critic. He was earlier robbed of his iPhone in his apartment complex building. He said the private investigators found the perpetrators, and that they are allegedly Kocharyan's son's friends, who met the Kocharyan family after the robbery. They apparently circled around Safaryan's house to monitor his activities.
Safaryan now accuses the cop in charge of investigating the case, of being an ally of the former regime, who is purposely sabotaging the case.
Tomorrow I'll ask the Investigative Committee chief to transfer my case from the Nor Norq Branch to elsewhere. It turns out the case in that branch is led by Haykaz Baghramyan's son.
Some Investigative Committee members are still controlled by the former govt's police officials.
This explains why my testimony was turned into a hot conflict at the station, and why the investigator was trying to find conflicting info from me. They're keep delaying the case for 3 months.
I had earlier received info that the car used by the suspects is owned by a friend of a police official. This is now being confirmed. This explains why nothing is done even though the gateway car was recorded on CCTV cameras from 3 different angles. The reason is that the investigator is Haykaz Baghramyan's son.
SIS should take over the case because I'm a public official. (at the time of the attack he was not)
The mastermind and perpetrators of the attack are roaming freely without hiding.
The Investigative Committee responded saying that Haykaz Baghramyan's son doesn't have enough influence within the department to sabotage cases, but nonetheless they decided to move the case to another department.
2018 wiretapping and Pashinyan
PM Pashinyan was questioned for 2.5 hours at the Investigative Committee. He is being treated as a witness, as well as a victim of an illegal wiretap.
"It's the first time in Armenia's history that the acting leader visits investigator's office at their request to answer questions", said PM.
The Investigative Committee said that Pashinyan was questioned as part of the 2018 "phone conversation leak" between SIS chief Sasun Khachatryan former NSS chief Arthur Vanetsyan.
After the audio was leaked, two criminal investigations were launched. One to investigate and find the leakers, and the other to investigate whether Vanetsyan and Khachatryan pressured a judge and broke a law.
SIS chief Sasun Khachatryan and former NSS chief Arthur Vanetsyan were also questioned about the leak. Both have the status of a witness and a victim.
A theory about the leak, backed by some facts:
At the time of the leak, HHK still controlled the Parliament. They launched an investigation that revealed that the judge who sent Kocharyan to jail wasn't named "Hrach" as mentioned by Vanetsyan in the call.
There is a chance Vanetsyan slipped and meant to say prosecutor (dadakhaz) Hrach instead of judge (datavor) Hrach, when he said: "I told judge Hrach to get me an arrest".
The lead March 1st investigator who got Kocharyan arrested is Hrach Musheghyan, so it would make sense for a boss to tell a rank-and-file to get something done. This is backed up by the fact that Vanetsyan told Hrach not to screw up and to get to know all the paperwork. If we apply logic here, if Vanetsyan had the verdict in his pocket, why would he tell Hrach guy to go through the lengths of doing his homework by meticulously examining the case files (as mentioned in the leak), if they had the verdict pre-planned anyway?
Vanetsyan did not use the phrase "get me an arrest verdict". Had he used the term "verdict" it would indicate that he's talking about a judge. If my memory serves right, from the beginning, Vanetsyan also claimed he was referring to investigator-prosecutor Hrach Musheghyan when he said "judge Hrach". Again, this is mostly theory and I could be wrong.
In case you missed it, former NSS chief Arthur Vanetsyan is accused of being a "deep state" operative who allegedly secretly sabotaged the Pashinyan administration and helped Serj and his allies to stay out of jail. These accusations began last year and Armtimes published more info a few days ago https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/eoa1sq/jan132020_daily_news_collection_from_armenia_stay/
Today Vanetsyan criticized the "situation around" the Constitutional court (former HHK Justice MP Hrayr Tovmasyan being charged with abuse of power and corruption in 2012-2013). He says he was against the protests and charges around the courts.
An interview with Informed Citizens NGO chief Daniel Ionesyan, who first raised the alarm about Vanetsyan and his criminal subculture ties last year (see Jan 13 post for details). In 2019 Ionesyan speculated that Vanetsyan purposely set up and recorded the phone conversation between him and SIS chief to then leak it, probably to help Kocharyan by fueling the claims that judges were controlled.
Q: Today Pashinyan was also questioned as part of that wiretapping investigation. The NSS and SIS chiefs were questioned earlier. Is there a connection between PM's questioning, and Armtimes outlet's recent article accusing Vanetsyan of cozying up with Serj and launching a campaign against Pashinhyan's family?
A: No. All parties have been questioned. Also, most likely there was no wiretapping, but rather a simple phone conversation likely recorded by Vanetsyan. This is an unprecedented case. We must find out who was behind this act. The Investigative Committee doesn't have the expertise to handle this case. Things are going slow.
Q: but Vanetsyan earlier said, "those who ordered this wiretapping are known to the public, the case is solved".
A: He was lying. If investigators knew who did that, they wouldn't still be looking for the perpetrators.
Q: has Vanetsyan committed a crime?
A: I'm confident that Vanetsyan committed crimes during his time as an NSS chief. Arthur Sakunts and I reported one such instance. If the new rumors (insider leak as one of them) circulating around Vanetsyan turn out to be true, he's looking at a prison sentence. Maybe that's why he's trying to save himself with primitive public stunts.
Q: There is talk that Vanetsyan tried to organize a state coup. And you believe he was the phone leaker. After all, what was the exact reason why he quit/got fired?
A: I don't think it was a real coup. Vanetsyan and Serj's son in law Mikael Minasyan aren't powerful enough for a coup. But Vanetsyan was undermining Pashinyan and the revolution. Now He wants to enter politics but still doesn't know how. Just because he became an NSS chief after 2018 that doesn't mean he can be a serious politician.
Tags: #ArthurVanetsyan #NSSleaks
Your favorite fake news of the week: Pashinyan's wife is colluding with president Armen Sarkissian to undermine Pashinyan and take over the govt.
In another instance, an edited photo was circulated showing that Pashinyan didn't go to the army because the papers indicate he had mental issues. Serj Sargsyan was also a victim of a similar edited photo in the past, showing he was a commie.
Collection of more fake news, and how to spot them: https://youtu.be/md0KjVWH8Qk
NSS vs blackmailer of colonel
In Nov-2019 someone left an envelope for colonel Arsen Tumanyan near his house. Tumanyan is the military commissar of Lori province.
The envelope had a note demanding the colonel pay $30,000 or else the blackmailer would tell the NSS that the colonel had a record of taking bribes from conscripts.
On two occasions the blackmailer called and instructed the colonel how and where to send the money.
The NSS has the phone info of the caller. They're investigating. The incident happened in Oct-2019.
Update: the suspects have been arrested.
Overall reported crime rose in 2019 vs 2018 by 9% due to theft and burglary. Crime against humans was down significantly despite there being 9 more murder cases.
Justice Ministry plans amendments to the Constitution. They created a group of experts consisted of lawyers and civil society groups tasked with discussing it.
Justice Minister Rustam Badasyan says serious reforms in higher courts are needed. The public should trust the courts. The reforms won't change the parliamentary system of governance. "Such big changes should not be done so frequently, but some elements need to change", said the Minister.
Under current law, if your party gets less than 50% of the votes and not enough Parliament seats to form a government, the law will automatically give you free seats just so you'll have the majority to rule.
Justice Minister is against that approach. He believes Parties should form coalitions if one cannot win the absolute majority. "The current law is anti-democratic."
They'll also review the total number of MPs, the separation of tasks done by some structures.
CivilNet's Tatul Hakobyan writes:
In the past 30 years, Armenia went from presidential to semi-presidential to a parliamentary system. This happened through Constitutional amendments. The most infamous one in 2005 was called "the referendum of ghosts" because Kocharyan, Serj, and their allies falsified the voter turnout to secure the amendment's passage.
Armenia needs a new Constitution, but it needs to have the support of the public, unlike in 1995, 2005 and 2015.
Tags: #Constitution #ConstitutionalReform
Karabakh refugee housing
During the 1988-1992 Karabakh war and Armenian massacres in Azerbaijan, 420,000 refugees went to Armenia. 12% of Armenians were refugees. Many of them later went to Russia, EU, US. Those who stayed were housed in hospitals, school buildings, kindergarten, and other common facilities.
The main problem has been the housing one. In 2005-2008 there was a program to help some refugees. 700 families received homes.
Now the govt has a new aid plan to help those who are still living in temporary shelters. As of 2018, there were 895 families.
The govt recently created a 1.5bln fund to provide housing to 112 families living in Yerevan. The second stage will include 2.1bln and 180 families.
traffic rules & fines
A group of Taxi drivers is protesting the points-based driving system, and the fact that they received letters asking them to pay some past debt. The protest leader says it's unfair because Yandex, being a bigger company and "intruding" into Armenia, is receiving a "more favorable treatment".
"Yandex is the company run by Turkish Jews who record and send your info to the other side of Mount Ararat", said one agitated protester, who wants the pre-2018 taxi debt annulled.
"Prime Minister earlier said the taxi industry should be left alone so they can earn their bread. I don't know why the collection department sends these letters now."
As for the points-based penalty system, the protesters are against it because they'll be required to follow the traffic rules. "9 point threshold is not enough to work."
Update: There are new accusations that the Armenian opera singer Ruzan Mantashyan wasn't invited to sing in Europe because the Azeri singer Youssif Ayvazov Ayvazov against it. It isn't clear whether for her ethnicity or other reasons. Back and forth accusations of misinformation were made. Initially, it was denied as being a result of a solo concert by Ayvazov. Now it appears we have a proper bolola in air hands... this is the last time I'm writing about this story.
Women, Business, and Law ranking: Armenia is 69th out of 190. (noice)
It scored a perfect score on women's rights of movement, marriage, property ownership, pensions.
Job security and parenting rights received 50-60% of the max score.
Goergia 55, Moldova 61, Armenia 69, Azerbaijan 92, Russia 122.
human rights and police
The Human Rights Watch spoke about the changes in Armenia, the ongoing anti-corruption fight, justice reforms, democratic elections.
It mentioned there are still issues that need resolving, such as past violence by police officers not being properly investigated.
Police still use excessive force during protests, for example during Amulsar mining protest a few activists were detained. A QP MP acknowledged the issue, saying some officers aren't experienced, and that they'll work to improve it.
In 1H2019 the police investigated 331 domestic violence cases. 209 people were charged but only 45 cases reached the court. (those are rookie numbers)
LGBT is still hated by population and received physical abuse.
they went to hospital
Manvel Tushonka Grigoryan's health degraded sharply 2 days ago. Heart arrhythmia, breathing issues, and glucose issues were sharpened. He was transported to an emergency room and attached to a system. He's doing slightly better now but is still bad, according to his doctors.
Prosecutors decided to ask the court to review the conditions of his detention. They want Manvel released from jail under guarantees he won't flee the country.
The court satisfied prosecutors' petition and freed Manvel. He's not allowed to leave Armenia.
Pashinyan went to a hospital for a routine checkup. The memo says he's in perfect condition.
"Just look at my client's magnificent fat accumulation on the belly area. He has enough fat to sleep 3 winters and wake up to the song of businesses printing 100% more sales receipts", said the imaginary doctor.
THE INDIANS ARE COMING!
Hrant Bagratyan is a former Prime Minister (the guy who claimed Armenia had nuclear weapons). Earlier he accused the govt's stats agency of providing false info. The stats agency responded by accusing Bagratyan of making misleading claims.
The full list is below, but the part you might be interested in is the one in which the stats agency denied the rumors that 90,000 Indians arrived and live in Armenia in the past 3 years.
That number is correct but for the past 10 years. 91k Indians arrived and 87k left, bringing total "stays" to 4k for the past decade combined. A sharp rise happened in 2018, followed by a sharp drop in 2019. There are no 90k Indians living in Armenia.
guns and roses
Sharpshooter Elmira KArapetyan won a bronze medal in an international competition held in UAE. Apparently she used a handgun. Call the polis.
Earlier, Pashinyan and some Azeri opposition figures spoke about Armenia's new weapons.
Today Ilham Aliyev cited an "amateur website" Global Fire Power to remind the Azeri public how much stronger the Azeri army is.
education reforms & science
FactorTV Interviewed Education Minister Arayik Harutyunyan.
Q: You're managing 4 ministries merged into 1. what did you achieve in 2019?
A: There's progress in all of them. ~20 preschools were created. Preschool law reform is finalized and sent to Parliament. The old law was only 3 pages long. We aim for 70% of kids under 6 to visit kindergartens. We need more kindergartens.
Standards are being changed in schools. As the economy develops the education system must develop too, in order to match. The upcoming reform package is ready. We'll begin implementing it in 2020.
In the Culture field, we implemented beautiful projects that we believe will benefit the new generation. International players are involved. We have a new approach to theaters and museums.
Sports laws still need a lot of work. We purchased an unprecedented amount of equipment for centers and schools.
Expect 2020 to be a major year for capital investments and constructions. We'll build 22 brand news schools with our budget alone. These will become provincial cultural-educational hubs for kids and adults. We want schools for adults, too. The construction begins this year.
Q: about Yerevan's Republics Square's Old City revival. How long and what is it?
A: In 2013 they accidentally discovered ruins. The previous govt decided to close it with concrete. At the time I had different ideas, "maybe it would be interesting for tourists?". I saw similar sights in other cities while traveling abroad.
We took it slow to examine it since we're talking about a big project. I spoke with Yerevan municipality, then publicly announced about the plans to revive it. A group consisted of archeologists, architects, etc. is formed to discuss this. We'll take it slow to get it right. People seem to approve it. The concerns will be discussed.
Q: there could be transport issues, especially if construction takes a while
A: We'll discuss it. But I think it's worth creating a traffic inconvenience for a while to make this project happen.
Q: the upcoming education reform envisions changing the National Academy of Science's status. It'll stop being a govt-institute and will join a union of scientific institutes and universities. Why do Radik Martirosyan and 34 institutes oppose this?
A: I met various scientists and institute directors. I'll meet Radik soon. We expect a smooth transition. It'll help the academy to strengthen. We want to strengthen ties between universities and research institutes so universities will become a hub for research. We don't think universities will be effective at creating experts unless they improve their research abilities. The system we have today is unsatisfactory.
In 2019 we purchased an unprecedented amount of equipment for universities and research centers, ~700mln worth. This year's budget is higher. If we don't make reforms, the archaic system will hold us back.
Q: Radik says today the scientists in Armenia use little money to provide big results, and that the reforms will ruin academia.
A: We don't ruin anything, we only build. We won't go anywhere if the education continues to develop at the same slow rate as it has in the past decades. I think I can convince Radik that the changes are needed.
Q: what about the Academy's administration's fate?
A: we'll discuss details later. The Academy and its administration won't be "shut down".
Q: if Academy is no longer a govt-institute, will it stop receiving govt funding?
A: there will be a rating system based on which institutes will be funded. We'll take into account the institutes' needs and achievements. We're currently assessing institutes.
Q: will the upcoming reforms make Armenian language/history classes optional for students, and become mandated only if universities require the classes?
A: Yes, we still believe that's the right approach.
Q: if ARF continues to protest against you, is it possible you'll change your mind?
Q: Science Committee chief Samvel Harutyunayn quit, citing his age. However, there were complaints about alleged corruption.
A: His administration made some improvements. Some problems existed. Any info on corruption should be sent to the police. We parted on good terms. Science Committee has a new administration.
Q: who's the new boss?
A: Sargis Hayotsyan got a promotion as the new boss. He's been active in the past 1.5 years.
Q: former deputy QP Education Minister Loretsyan (got arrested for alleged bribery) wants you to testify in court. He says he wanted to quit the job so there wouldn't be any conflict of interest about him sponsoring a business, but "there was not enough time". He claims that you received his resignation plea 2 days before the bust and that this is proof that he had no malicious intentions.
A: I haven't been served court docs yet. I'll cooperate with the investigation. I can't comment.
Q: everybody speaks about hate speech these days. Everyone curses each other on the internet. Does the Education Ministry have plans to calm people down through TV ads, etc.?
A: I see more discussion around this topic lately. Better education is a long-term solution to hate speech. In the books, there will be parts teaching more tolerance. What we have around hate speech is typical for post-revolution periods. A lot is happening in the society. In a few years, things will subside (VERY OPTIMISTIC MY BOY).
Tag: #EducationReforms #EducationMinistry
25% more people visited theaters in the New Year's holiday week of 2020 vs 2019. The number reached 54,802. Another 14,662 visited museums.
sales receipts & IRS
Pashinyan's obsession with IRS-visible sales receipts has no limits:
2019 vs 2018 businesses printed 120mln more receipts which is +38%, or AMD 345bln more trade which is +22%.
I thank all customers who ask for receipts and all businesses that print one without the customer asking.
tourism, wine, and stuff like that
Artsakh Republic saw a record 47% rise in foreign visits in 2019.
Armenia Wine factory had a good year.
In 2019 they planted 14 ha organic vineyards in Syunik and Aragatsotn, bringing total to 74 ha.
The factory creates wine from grapes collected in 4 provinces and EU. 2 organic grapes were added to the existing 15 varieties. They cooperated with 600 local firms to deliver the grapes.
The factory has an international presence with the help of 26 cooperations. The exports rose +25% in 2019. They participated in 5 expos, winning 27 medals including 5 gold.
At home, the factory increased its sales by 35% in 2019.
Tourism is another thing that's being developed. They hosted 7,000 guests from 15 countries, during which they presented them Armenia's 6,0000-year history of winemaking. They plan to open a museum in the factory building.
Factory taunts its state of the art organic tech used only in few countries. They promised new wines in 2020. We're patiently waiting...
we the Neanderthals
Neanderthals knew how to create fire, and there is evidence of it found in Armenia, claim international and Armenian archeologists.
They found polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons substances that indicate a fire. It was believed that only homo-sapience was smart enough to artificially create fire. Now that's doubted.
The discovery was made in Lusakert 1 archeological sight.
Gulf News: "Photos: Best places to travel in Pakistan, Italy, Austria and Armenia"
Winter trekking and airreal tramway featured.
What is this?
Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/ep8k3n/jan152020_daily_news_collection_from_armenia_stay/
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