Fugitive Siradeghian Said to Return ‘In A Few Days’

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Former interior minister Vano Siradeghian–who fled Armenia in late January in the face of murder charges–will soon return home to cooperate with state investigators–one of his closest associates said on Wednesday.

"I can assure everybody that there is no need to search for Vano Siradeghian because he will be back in Armenia in a few days’ time and will visit those bodies that want to meet him," Ararat Zurabian–a deputy chairman of Siradeghian’s Armenian National Movement–told RFE/RL.

The remarks came after Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian told a local newspaper earlier this week that law-enforcement bodies know Siradeghian’s whereabouts and are taking steps to have him extradited. Siradeghian–who headed the interior ministry from 1992-96–left Armenia for the United Arab Emirates days after the chief prosecutor had accused him of ordering murders of two police while in office.

He will likely face fresh murder charges in another case involving the creation of what prosecutors says was an "armed gang" that was executing the ex-minister’s alleged death orders.

Siradeghian and his party have dismissed the charges as politically motivated. Also condemning them was independent Armenia’s first president–Levon Ter-Petrosyan. The ANM lost its ruling status with Ter-Petrosyan’s resignation in February 1998.

Despite his absence–the ANM chairman is seeking registration as a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections. He is standing in his native Noyemberian region in the north of the country.

Interior Minister Sarkisian said Siradeghian is not eligible to participate in the vote in absentia. But the

ANM’s Zurabian rejected that argument–saying that the law does not require the presence of candidates during their registration. "Serzh Sarkisian is not the right person to talk about that. It’s up to election officials to decide," Zurabian said. He said the minister’s warnings was just a "political statement."

ANM leaders insist that Siradeghian went abroad for medical treatment and will come back once it is complete. They have previously set earlier dates of his return but none of them has materialized.

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