Kocharian Consents to Aide’s Prosecution Over Parliament Killings

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian gave the green light Wednesday for the prosecution of one of his closest aides on suspicion of involvement in the recent assassinations of senior government officials. Kocharian said in a statement that he told law-enforcement agencies to conduct an "objective inquiry" into a possible link between his foreign policy adviser Aleksan Harutiunian and five gunmen who burst into the parliament chamber on October 27.

The statement read out to reporters by presidential press secretary Vahe Gabrielian came amid reports that state prosecutors investigating the bloody attack plan to arrest Harutiunian–who is the Armenian leader’s confidant and former chief of staff. The investigators led by Armenia’s chief military prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian refused to comment on information leaks indicating that they have collected evidence implicating the presidential adviser.

Harutiunian tendered his resignation earlier in the day–saying that he wants to end the "immoral" rumors about his involvement in the killings and will cooperate with the investigators.

"In order to ward off further speculations–I announce that I asked today the president of the republic to relieve me of my duties and am ready to do my best to assisting in the work of the investigative bodies," Harutiunian said in a statement.

It is not clear whether or not he will be taken into custody pending the end of the investigation. Rumors about Harutiunian’s imminent arrest were circulating throughout the day.

A total of 11 individuals have so far been arrested in connection with parliament attack. The prosecutors have said they are considering more than a dozen theories as to who might have masterminded it.

One of its representatives–Minister for Industrial Infrastructures Vahan Shirkhanian–has called for fresh presidential elections as a way to overcome the political turmoil that threatens continued stability in Armenia. Shirkhanian is also a leader of the influential Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans dominated by senior army commanders.

On Monday–Kocharian’s new chief of staff and the former national security minister–accused Shirkhanian and his allies of manipulating the Armenian military for their personal interest.

Harutiunian’s likely prosecution comes as a serious blow to Kocharian–who is struggling to maintain his position as head of state.

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