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Armenian Court Says Pro-Opposition Doctor Can Be Rearrested On Election Influence Charges

Former President Robert Kocharian (right) greets Armen Charchian, director of the Izmirlian Medical Center, during a rally in Yerevan in May.

A court in Yerevan has granted an appeal by Armenian prosecutors seeking the rearrest of a prominent surgeon charged with pressuring his subordinates to go vote in the June 20 parliamentary elections in which he ran on the ticket of an opposition alliance.

Prosecutors argued that Armen Charchian could influence other participants in his trial if he remained free.

Charchian's lawyers have said they are going to appeal the Appeals Court's decision to rearrest their client.

Charchian, the head of Yerevan's Izmirlian Medical Center, was indicted after a nongovernmental organization made public a leaked audio recording of his preelection meeting with hospital personnel.

In the recording, a man purported to be Charchian tells subordinates they must vote in the snap elections or face "much tougher treatment" by the hospital management. He was prosecuted under an article of the Criminal Code that prohibits any coercion of voters.

The surgeon, who ran for parliament on the Hayastan Alliance's ticket, has rejected the accusations as politically motivated.

A Yerevan court on June 23 ordered Charchian's arrest pending an investigation.

Hayastan's leadership, the Armenian Apostolic Church, which owns the hospital, as well as hundreds of medics have since demanded his release.

Charchian, 61, was granted bail at the start of the trial on July 19.

Charchian denies any wrongdoing, claiming that he only asked staffers to vote on June 20 and did not threaten to fire anyone.

If convicted, he risks up to seven years in prison.