An opposition leader in Armenia has been arrested and accused of preparing to kill the prime minister, his lawyer said, adding to the political turmoil created by a controversial peace deal with neighboring Azerbaijan.
Artur Vanetsyan, head of the center-right Homeland party, was arrested on Saturday after being summoned to the headquarters of the Armenian security forces, his lawyers Lusine Sahakyan and Ervand Varosyan said.
They called the detention a “persecution” and denied the allegations against their client—that he was preparing to seize power after the murder of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
Pashinyan has faced violent street protests and fierce criticism from Armenia’s political opposition since he signed a peace deal with Azerbaijan to end fighting over the disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh which erupted in September.
Armenia faced heavy losses by technologically superior Azeri troops and Pashinyan agreed to cede large parts of the mostly Christian and ethnically Armenian region to Muslim-majority Azerbaijan in order to bring an end to the hostilities.
Vanetsyan, a former boss of Armenia’s security services known for his links to Russia, was also briefly detained last week along with other senior opposition figures during anti-government protests which saw the prime minister called a “traitor.”