Racketeering Added to Charges in Siradeghian Indictment

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–"Vano Siradeghian has been detained and is not under arrest," attorney Ruben Rshtuni–who represents the former interior minister said in an interview with Noyan Tapan.

Rshtuni said a preventive punishment against his client must be decided and announced within 96 hours of his detention.

Siradeghian’s attorney added that the Prosecutor General’s Office indicted Siradeghian for racketeering; complicity in and plotting of premeditated murder with aggravating circumstances–as well as for abuse of authority–taking bribes and complicity in the deliberate destruction of state or public property.

These charges are somewhat different from those indicated in a petition presented by Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepian to the National Assembly in February. The charge of racketeering was not included in the February petition

Siradeghian remains in custody.

Meanwhile–the chairman of the Central Electoral Commission Artak Saghradian issued a statement–concerning Siradeghian’s detention.

The statement said the deputy chairman of the Armenian National Movement Board Ararat Zourabian and members of the Shamiram parliamentary faction asked the Central Electoral Commission to clarify its position regarding the detention of Siradeghian–a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

In an inquiry sent by CEC to prosecutor’s office–Saghradian asked Hovsepian to outline the status of the Siradeghian case.

The CEC–Saghradian said–could not take any other position–since under the Criminal Procedure Law–law enforcement agencies in some cases have the right to detain citizens and keep them for 96 hours. "Without official inquiry–we had no right to response to this immediately," Saghradian said.

Saghradian also said that Siradeghian was detained and searched by law enforcement officers at the building of the Prosecutor’s Office.

He said that CEC acted within its powers and cannot make any other commen’s on the subject. CEC chairman promised to inform journalists about further developmen’s at the next session of the commission.

Asked whether Siradeghian will be allowed to meet with his proxy in accordance with article 18 of the Election Law–Saghradian said: "Certainly–we shall see to it–if there are any complaints–but there have been no complaints so far."

According to deputy chairman of the ANM Board Ararat Zourabian–prosecutor’s office will achieve nothing by detaining Siradeghian as Siradeghian refused to testify and said that he will do it only in court.

Siradeghian–Armenia’s former interior minister facing murder charges–was detained Monday immediately after his surprise return from a three-month self-imposed exile.

He was apprehended by law-enforcement officers at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport as he disembarked from a plane on the flight from the Bulgarian capital–Sofia. His wife and child faced obstacles while passing through the VIP lounge. Another person accompanying Siradeghian told reporters that the former minister was approached on the tarmac by two men who asked him "politely" to follow them.

Siradeghian–who is one of the closest associates of former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan–left Armenia for Dubai in late January after state prosecutors accused him of ordering murders of two police officers while in power.

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