Vano Siradeghian Released; Refuses Testimony While in Custody

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Chairman of the Armenian National Movement Board Vano Siradeghian was released Friday from pre-trial detention at 1:30 p.m. two hours before the 96-hour detention expired.

According to Siradeghian’s lawyer Rouben Rshtuni–they had submitted an appeal to the Prosecutor’s Office that Vano Siradeghian will not be absent from the place of his residence and that a bail equivalent to a 500-fold minimal wage was paid.

Rshtuni also said that Vano Siradeghian refused to testify while in detention–explaining his refusal by poor health. For further investigation–Siradeghian will be subpoenaed to the Prosecutor’s Office. According to Rshtuni–the release of Siradeghian from pre-trial detention wasn’t the most difficult task; the main work is still ahead.

Under the Code of Criminal Procedure the Prosecutor Office is liable to impose preventive punishment on the accused. The Prosecutor General is liable to apply to the Central Electoral Commission–National Assembly and the Tavush regional election committee for their consent if arrest is chosen as preventive punishment. Vano Siradeghian is registered as candidate for Parliament in Tavush election district No.75.

Secretary of the Central Electoral Commission Armenuhi Zohrabian reported that by 7:30 p.m. on Thursday the Central Electoral Commission had not received a petition from the Prosecutor General. In all probability–the petition was not sent to the National Assembly either–since a special session of the Parliament can not to be called on Friday.

After his release–Siradeghian spent three hours with his family. He then arrived at the ANM Headquarters at the entrance of which ANM members and journalists were waiting for him.

However–Siradeghian declined to answer questions. "I am unaware of the current political situation," he explained. At the same time–he promised to call a press conference next Tuesday–"in 96 hours."

Deputy chairman of the ANM Board Ararat Zourabian said that while under arrest no pressure was exerted on Vano Siradeghian and no conditions were set. "Vano Siradeghian is not a man who can be pressured," he said. According to Zourabian–nothing but personal search was applied against Vano Siradeghian while detaining.

Before Siradeghian’s release–former president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan visited Thursday the ANM Office where he spoke with members of the ANM Board behind closed doors. The same day the Ar TV channel broadcasted an interview of L. Ter-Petrosyan with journalists held immediately after the meeting.

Asked to comment on Siradeghian’s detention–the ex-president said that his presence at the ANM headquarters was the most eloquent response. Saying that the ANM chairman was not in want of protection–Ter-Petrosyan declined to comment on whether he considered the case of Siradeghian to be a criminal or political one.

Ter-Petrosyan urged the people not to lose patience and optimism in this complicated situation and voiced conviction that everything will be all right in Armenia.

A journalist for the Ar TV company met with Siradeghian’s proxy Vasak Darbinian at the ANM office. The proxy said that he and editor-in-chief of the Hayk newspaper Armen Baghdasarian and Smbat Siradeghian–who stand proxies for Siradeghian–met with the latter in jail. Vasak Darbinian said no pressure had been exerted on Siradeghian. Siradeghian did not testify as he had "nothing to say now," however–he will probably do in a fortnight.

Meanwhile–victims to Siradeghian’s alleged crimes rallied for justice.

"Vano Siradeghian wasn’t alone in committing crimes–and all who were behind him must be committed to trial," those considering themselves to be victims to former interior minister’s illegal actions demanded on May 7. The action was organized by the Sakharov Human Rights Fund through which citizens have lodged complaints for the last several months.

The release of Vano Siradeghian–who was detained on May 3–aroused indignation among those participating in the action. They said the farce in relation to Siradeghian is continuing.

Among those addressing the rally were relatives of Varuzhan Abrahamian and Hovhanes Sukiassian–shot along with the chief of the Armenian railroad department Hambartsum Ghandilian (the investigation theory claimed Siradeghian’s involvement in this crime too)–former chief of the Department of Civil Aviation Dmitri Atabashian arrested on framed-up charges–candidate for parliament from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Kim Balayan (arrested in 1996 following events connected with the presidential elections)–and others.

They believe that investigation agencies are not taking into consideration many facts which expose not only Siradeghian but also people behind him. They laid special stress on the fact that "many of those involved in crimes are still holding key positions."

By showing their weakness in this case–the authorities are inciting us to commit a crime–the victims said.

Those present supported the proposal by Kim Balayan and President of the Sakharov Fund Aghasi Arshakian to set up an ad hoc committee to detect Siradeghian’s crimes and expose all persons involved. They believe that public opinion will make law enforcement agencies to conduct full investigations into these crimes.

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