Vahan Haroutiunian Continues to Present Revealing Testimony at Siradeghian Trial

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Former internal troops commander Vahan Haroutiunian continued to testify in court January 14 on the case of Vano Siradeghian.

Haroutiunian outlined the tense situation in the country in 1994 when the interior minister and internal troops were being accused of having relations with Armen Ter-Sahakian’s group and the other wing of the Armenian National Movement–"a group of seven persons"–demanded that the president of Armenia relieve Vano Siradeghian of his duties. According to Haroutiunian–the ANM leaders seeking Siradeghian’s resignation were implicated in the earlier committed crimes–in making decisions on murdering Ashtarak Regional Executive Committee Chief Hovhannes Sukiassian and Railroad Department Head Hambartsum Ghandilian.

Haroutiunian said that the president of the republic at the time–Levon Ter-Petrosyan–faced a dilemma as the accusations of Siradeghian were voiced not just by casual figures. In particular–ex-interior minister Ashot Manoucharian who was the president’s senior advisor on national security affairs–expressed readiness in the presence of several people to prove Siradeghian’s guilt. The defendant emphasized that Manoucharian–thinking that it would be senseless–refused to give testimony to the Prosecutor’s Office headed by Artavazd Gevorgian–as Supreme Council member Kim Balayan–Head of the Division of the State Department of National Security Gurgen Yeghiazarian–Chief of the Investigation Department of the Prosecutor’s Office Vladimir Grigorian–all victims in the case–had earlier applied to the Prosecutor General. Eventually–the president did find an option by appointing Vazgen Sargsyan State Minister to coordinate the activities of the military–police and law-enforcement structures. Also–two members of Ter-Sahakian’s group–Arshak Shukhian and Suren Haroutiunian–were "handed over" to the law-enforcement agencies to pacify the Prosecutor’s Office employees interested in the disclosure of the cases.

Haroutiunian said that State Minister Vazgen Sargsyan–considering Haroutiunian’s retirement from the Interior Ministry’s system to be a right option–twice offered him a civil position–of which Haroutiunian informed Minister Siradeghian. The latter–however–made a different decision appointing Haroutiunian Head of the Sevan Regional Interior Department. "You must remain in the system–now you can’t quit and pass on to a civil position–otherwise you will be prosecuted," said the minister. However–during Haroutiunian’s work in Sevan–the Prosecutor’s Office did bother him once in connection with the disappearance of the victims in the case of Karen Rafaelian and Artur Hovhannissian. However–Siradeghian encouraged him by saying: "They will no longer bother you." And it turned out to be true until 1998.

The defendant dwelt on the details of the earlier episodes connected with the attempt on the life of Chairman of the International Armenian Congress Serge Jilavian and the murder of Karen Rafaelian and Artur Hovhannissian. These young men–who expressed readiness to "eliminate" Jilavian and were provided with security guarantees–on returning to Yerevan after the abortive murder attempt reported to the Internal Troops Department on January 22–1994 and were kept there until the following day. Minister Vano Siradeghian at first instructed Vahan Haroutiunian to keep them in a quiet area somewhere in the country and then said: "We decided that these guys must be executed by shooting." On January 24–on learning that the order had failed to be fulfilled–Siradeghian said to Haroutiunian: "There was an instruction–so carry it out." By the end of the working day–the minister again phoned him and warned: "You will answer with your life unless the order is fulfilled by dawn."

Haroutiunian dragged out the execution of the order as he thought it wrong to kill the guys that posed no danger and to trammel Internal Troops Department officials into the murder. Deputy Internal Troops Commander Artsrun Margarian–who was aware of everything–said that if Vahan Haroutiunian would not order the execution by shooting–"there was a man who would fulfill the order." Therefore–according to the defendant–he had to give the order–which was fulfilled on the night of January 25. The corpses of the men were buried. Vahan Haroutiunian comforted the executors–who broke down after the murder–by saying: "We are a state–after all–and such things happen in a state." Reporting to the minister about the fulfillment of the order the following morning–Haroutiunian suggested that the corpses be "located" and handed over to the relatives of the dead. Later–he made the same proposal when the parents of the killed people–especially of Karen Rafaelian–started to feel uneasy about their sons’ disappearance. However–the minister rejected that proposal–saying that he would talk to the parents himself.

Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepian joined the prosecutors in the January 13 hearing of the Vano Siradeghian.

Vahan Haroutiunian continued to testify. He said the murders of Ashtarak Regional Executive Committee Chief Hovhannes Sukiassian and Railroad Department Head Hambartsum Ghandilian had been perpetrated by Armen Ter-Sahakian’s group following a decision of a separate group of leaders of the ruling ANM party. Vano Siradeghian was to make sure the assassins would go unpunished. The attempts on the life of Prosecutor’s Office Investigation Department Head Vladimir Grigorian–the arrest of members of the Ter-Sahakian gang by the Mashtots Police Department and their subsequent release–car hijackings by gang members testify to Siradeghian’s role.

The defendant wondered why Siradeghian was the only man of all the decision-makers to be charged–while the former director of the State Radio and Television Company–Samvel Grigorian–through whom the murders were committed with Siradeghian’s approval–remained unpunished–even from the moral viewpoint. It was not without reason that Ter-Sahakian once declared in court: "Capture Hitler and I will tell you then." Haroutiunian–for his part–added: "Capture Hitler–Goring and Goebbels. I assure you that if the names of all the decision-makers are made public–you will see that Vano [Siradeghian] was simply an angel among them."

The defendant described as a barefaced lie the statement made by Samvel Gevorgian during the trial that he allegedly knew no one from the group except Ter-Sahakian. He said that in Siradeghian’s absence from Armenia Ter-Sahakian gave detailed testimony making clear that murder instructions were given after a relevant ANM decision made by Samvel Gevorgian personally and were approved by Vano Siradeghian.

Haroutiunian attracted the court’s attention to the fact that his testimony given during the preliminary investigation were partially vague as when his deputy–Artsrun Margarian–was alive–Haroutiunian did not want to be implicated with a formulation other than "knew but did not report."

According to Haroutiunian–in the mid-autumn of 1993 Artsrun Margarian told him that he had obtained some information of consequence from a trustworthy person and would like to share this information with his chief. That person was Karen Rafaelian–a victim in the case–an old friend of the former internal force official–now defendant Norair Tadevossian. He then informed him of preparations for a terrorist act against Armenian leaders in Moscow and that one man–whom he [Rafaelian] trusted–even had been offered to participate in it. As was agreed–Rafaelian later introduced to the Internal Troops leaders this man–Artur Hovhannissian–another victim in the case. The latter told about an attempt on the lives of Armenia’s president–interior minister–defense minister–other officials being prepared and financed in Moscow. Hovhannissian said $30,000 had been promised for participation in this case.

This story alarmed Vahan Haroutiunian–as before that the minister had already shown to him a sheet of paper resembling a leaflet before.

That paper was signed "Death to the turncoats and robbers. Revengers." Rafaelian and Hovhannissian–who were sent to Moscow at the expense of the funds to clarify the details of the conspiracy–said upon their return that the person who ordered the attempted assassination was a very rich man–Chairman of the Armenian International Assembly Serge Jilavian–while the organizer and mastermind was the Head of the Moscow and Nakhichevan Dioceses of the Armenian Apostolic Church Archbishop Tiran Kiureghian. Unlike his inferiors–Vano Siradeghian did not take the information seriously and advised his inferiors how to thrash the guys to prevent their further interference in similar games. They did not resort to beating as they were proxies for Norair Tadevossian. Moreover–they asked for a separate meeting with the minister–saying that with definite security guarantees they were ready to "eliminate" Serge Jilavian. Apart from security guarantees–they asked for a pistol with a silencer–a Moscow registration–a flat in Yerevan and $3,000 in cash for expenses. After some consideration–the minister agreed to their proposal–only asking for their passports for appropriate paper work and told them to go to Moscow where they would be provided with a pistol with a silencer. Vahan Haroutiunian said that Vano Siradeghian took a pistol with a silencer and $3,000 out of a safe in his presence and forwarded them to Artsrun Margarian.

The defendant said he had learned about the arrest of Norair Tadevossian–who delivered the gun with a silencer to Moscow–as well as of Karen Rafaelian and Artur Movsissian from Artsrun Margarian. The latter said that Tadevossian and Rafaelian "had been able to escape" and on returning to Yerevan they told about the active role of Hovhannissian. Haroutiunian and Margarian instructed Internal Troops officials–now defendant Yeranos Melkonian and Gagik Petrossian–to bring the weapon hidden by Tadevossian from Moscow.

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