Siradeghian’s Whereabouts Still Unknown

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenian law-enforcement authorities claimed on Wednesday they are still looking for Vano Siradeghian to take him into custody for the rest of his high-profile trial–while the lawyer and friends of the former interior minister denied any knowledge of his whereabouts.

An interior ministry spokesman’said police are taking all "necessary measures" to track down and arrest Siradeghian in line with a court decision approved by parliament on Tuesday. The ex-minister’s lawyer–Ivan Sukiasian–said he does not know where his client is at the moment. "I don’t know my client’s whereabouts. Even if I knew–I wouldn’t be in a position to disclose them," Sukiasian told reporters.

Siradeghian–who has been standing trial on charges of ordering a series of murders while in power–is thought to have fled Armenia or gone into hiding since a district court in Yerevan allowed prosecutors on Monday to seek his arrest. His fellow lawmakers endorsed the move the next day after being told by Armenia’s chief prosecutor that Siradeghian is obstructing the trial and intimidating relatives of his alleged victims.

But his lawyer again denounced the arrest warrant as "illegal" and "unfounded." It was a result of strong pressure put on the judge by President Robert Kocharian–Sukiasian alleged. "If [Siradeghian] has indeed escaped–he has escaped injustice rather than justice," he said.

Meanwhile–leaders of Siradeghian’s Armenian National Movement on Wednesday confirmed reports that they have been questioned by police. ANM’s deputy chairman–Ararat Zurabian–told RFE/RL that police have also searched homes of some activists of the former ruling party. "We are now concerned about where Vano Siradeghian could be. Nobody is asking if he is now absent against his will," Zurabian said.

Siradeghian left the country in January 1999–shortly after criminal proceedings were launched against him. He returned to Yerevan three months later.

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