‘Secret Ties’ With Turkish TV May Underlie Armenian Spy Case

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The espionage case brought against Murad Bojolian–the arrested former senior official at the Armenian foreign ministry–may be based on his unpublicized cooperation with a Turkish television station–it was claimed on Wednesday.

A source familiar with the inquiry told RFE/RL that the charges of high treason leveled against Bojolian seem to stem from his freelance contributions to the Turkish channel TV6. Investigators from the national security ministry in Yerevan believe that the Turkish-born Armenian citizen worked for TV6 "secretly," providing public and classified information about Armenia–the source said.

Bojolian is known to have been an occasional news contributor to several Turkish newspapers in the late 1990s. He is said to have once offered to work as a permanent Yerevan-based correspondent for one of them.

The deputy minister of national security–Grigor Grigorian–told reporters last week that his agency has credible evidence to prove that Bojolian gathered "political–economic and military information" for the Turkish intelligence service–MIT. But Grigorian and other ministry officials have refused to disclose any details of Armenia’s first espionage case.

A well known specialist on Turkish affairs–Bojolian headed the Armenian foreign ministry’s Turkey desk from 1991-93 before working as a Turkish interpreter and adviser for former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan. Acquaintances say he has made a modest living from retail trade in recent years–regularly traveling to Turkey to buy cheap goods for his market stall in Yerevan.

Meanwhile–his defense attorney–Ruben Balabanian–said on Tuesday that he does not think his client was a Turkish spy not least because the latter did not have access to state secrets. He at the same time declined to state whether Bojolian will formally plead not guilty to the treason charge. He was also careful to say that it is still premature to say anything final about detailed charges to be made against his client.

"I do not believe that he has done anything against Armenia," Balabanian said. "At this point it is too early to say whether the accusations are 100 percent true or false. But I am convinced that he is a patriot who loves Armenia just like any other Armenian does."

According to Balabanian–Bojolian did a "good job" during his time in the foreign ministry and the Ter-Petrosyan administration–striving for improved relations between the two estranged neighbors. On one occasion in the mid-1990s–the lawyer went on–he personally negotiated an air corridor through Turkey for ex-president Ter-Petrosyan’s plane bound for Syria.

Bojolian was detained by security officials at a checkpoint on the Georgian border on January 26 as he traveled to Turkey together with his wife Lyudmila. She has dismissed the case as "fabricated."

The former diplomat’s sister who lives in the United States has also rejected the accusations. "Murad Bojolian is not a spy–he is innocent," Lousia Bojolian wrote to RFE/RL last week.

"Spies all over the world are enjoying the finest things of life: expensive cars–houses and lots of money. Murad couldn’t even dream about that. He has lived in a small apartment with his three kids for 25 years–even when was working for Levon Ter-Petrosyan," she said.

"Murad had a lot of opportunities to leave Armenia and start a new life–but he didn’t," she said.

Bojolian visited the US in 2000 to attend the wedding party of his sister’s son.

National security officials have pledged that his trial will be fair and open. According to lawyer Balabanian–their pre-trial investigation will be complete before the end of March.

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