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Armenian Public School Directors Sue Civil Group Over Pre-election Scandal

YEREVAN (A.W.)— The directors of 30 public schools and kindergartens have sued the Armenian civil society group the Union of Informed Citizens (UIC) for posing as Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) representatives and tricking them into confessing that they have told their staffs and children’s parents to vote for the RPA in the 2017 Armenian Parliamentary Elections, reported RFE/RL Armenian service.

A scene from an RPA campaign event in Yerevan

The directors are asking for a formal apology and a total of 60 million drams ($124,000) in damages since they claim that this scandal affected their “honor and dignity.”

On March 24, the UIC announced that one of its activists—posing as a senior RPA representative— telephoned the directors of 136 schools and kindergartens in and out of Yerevan, and revealed that 114 of them admitted to drawing up lists of students’ parents, as well as schoolteachers and staff, who promised to support the RPA in the upcoming elections.

The UIC said that these lists were submitted to local government bodies or RPA campaign offices. The civil society also published a list of all the principals involved with creating election lists for the RPA. The list includes details and recorded conversations with the principals of 84 schools and 30 kindergartens.

Opposition parties pointed to these revelations as further proof of their allegations against the RPA for violating various laws during the parliamentary race. Some parties demanded that the Central Election Commission (CEC) disqualify the RPA, but the CEC rejected.

The RPA admitted to many school principals campaigning for its election victory but claimed that it was outside working hours and duties.

Harutyun Harutyunyan, the lawyer representing the directors, claimed that the allegations by the UIC defamed the character of these school directors. “My clients unequivocally assert that they did not abuse administrative resources,” said Harutyunyan.

UIC activist Daniel Ioannisyan countered Harutyunyan by stating that the civil group has accused the RPA of such abuses and not the directors. “Let the Republican Party sue us and say that it didn’t abuse administrative resources,” said Ioannisyan. “In that case, we would have something to discuss.”

Ioannisyan added that the lawsuit against the civil society group is retaliation against these truthful allegations and is an attempt to limit freedom expression in Armenia.

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