YEREVAN, October 3. / ARKA /. Armenia’s former president Robert Kocharian has backed his former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian, stripped of parliamentary immunity by fellow lawmakers yesterday, saying in a statement that the decision discredits the National Assembly and will damage the country’s international image.
“This is not what the country needs now,’ Kocharian argues.
Vartan Oskanian, a U.S.-educated Armenian who served as foreign minister from 1998 to 2008, stands accused of money laundering for a donation he accepted from American businessman and philanthropist Jon Hunstman Sr. After leaving his post Oskanian established the Civilitas Foundation. Huntsman Sr. contributed nearly $2 million to Civilitas in January 2011. In May 2012, Oskanian was elected to parliament as a member of the Prosperous Armenia Party.
“I have carefully studied what was published about Oskanian’s case and was unable to find the answer to the main question - what the National Security Service, the Prosecutor’s Office and the parliament have to do with the relations between Jon Huntsman and Vartan Oskanian and the Civilitas Foundation,” the ex-president says in his statement.
“Oskanian was one of the most successful ministers and one of the few in Armenia who stood the test of power. He was effective and honest both when he was in power and now. He is an exceptionally honest person - a rare quality in our political realities. People like him must be protected, not persecuted, especially that he represents a party that has a strong army of supporters,” Kocharian says. ’The “absurdity of this whole story is disappointing,” he adds.
The 131-member National Assembly lifted Oskanian’s immunity from prosecution by a secret vote of 64 in favor to 6 against on Tuesday. Deputies from Oskanian’s Prosperous Armenia and other factions boycotted the parliament vote. -0-