Deputy Director of National TV Arrested

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–RFE/RL)–Deputy Director of the state-owned Armenian National Television Haroutiun Haroutiunian was detained Wednesday evening and placed under arrest Thursday in connection with the October 27 killings in Parliament. He is suspected of aiding Nairi Hunanian’s gang in committing the terrorist act at the National Assembly–but his friends and colleagues said there is no evidence to prosecute him.

Head of the Investigation Department–Military Procurator’s Office–Artak Haroutiunian said that the suspect’s detainment came in light of information provided by Hunanian and other unspecified evidence obtained by investigators. He said more arrests are possible in the coming weeks. The investigator also said that the detainee rejected the services of the defense.

The director of the TV station condemned his subordinate’s arrest–saying that prosecutors investigating the parliament attack are being manipulated by political foes of President Robert Kocharian.

Leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation party Vahan Hovanessian said the charges are not substantiated and expressed fresh concerns at the course of the investigation. "We are showing restraint and not interfering in the [prosecutors’] work but hope that the investigating team is also conscious of the danger of rising tension in the country," he said. "They must understand that by constantly making arrests on poorly founded charges they will in no way contribute to an atmosphere of mutual trust in the society," he warned.

Harutiunian’s lawyer–however–said on Thursday that the criminal case against his client is "groundless."

Armenian National Television director Tigran Naghdalian said Friday that the case is politically motivated and is part of a wider conspiracy by "revanchist forces" to remove Kocharian from power. A figure close to Kocharian–Naghdalian referred to supporters of the former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan who was forced into resignation two years ago.

"Unfortunately–I have to say that I’m not sure that the body investigating the murders is not under the influence of those forces," he said.

The criminal inquiry is led by Armenia’s chief military prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian. He is believed to have close ties with the influential Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans that has turned against Kocharian since October 27. Led by senior army commanders–Yerkrapah stands by Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian and its political wing–the Republican Party of Armenia–controls the country’s parliament.

Kocharian suffered a serious embarrassment last month when the prosecutors arrested his foreign policy adviser Aleksan Harutiunian on similar charges.

In a veiled criticism of Jahangirian’s team–he suggested shortly afterwards that the investigation is not on the right track. "I think that it is time for these people (investigators) to sober up and display a more serious and professional approach to their work," Naghdalian said. The state TV chief claimed that he and all those who personally knew gang leader and former journalist Hunanian are now vulnerable to unjust prosecution.

ANT is seen as one of Kocharian’s remaining power levers. The head of the government’s information department–Tigran Hakobian–last month proposed the cabinet to approve a measure that would substantially weaken Kocharian’s control over the most accessible mass medium in Armenia.

Naghdalian said that his deputy director was arrested on Wednesday at Hakobian’s agency–suggesting a link between the prosecutors and government members hostile to Kocharian.

So far–15 persons have been arrested in connection with the October 27 events.

A public council in defense of television director Haroutiunian was set up on Friday upon the initiative of the Armenian National Television managers–Armen Arzoumanian–the Director of the "Haylur" News Program of the Armenian National Television–told the Noyan Tapan reporter..

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