President Asks Not to Exploit Naghdalian Case

YEREVAN (Yerkir–RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian commented on Wednesday about the actions of Armen Sarkisian’s relatives and opposition leaders who continue to protest his weekend arrest–describing the case as politically motivated. Kocharian referred to their actions as "destabilizing," and strongly denied the claims. "Evidence was so compelling that the prosecutor-general’s office simply had no other choice," he told reporters.

The President and top law-enforcement officials insisted that there is ample evidence to prosecute the brother of opposition leader Aram Sarkisian for his alleged involvement in the recent murder of the head of Armenia’s television and Radio Board Tigran Naghdalian.

"No country releases people accused of a felony–just because their family members and friends are protesting–the president said. Otherwise the whole justice system would collapse," he added.

Replying to accusations that the arrest of Armen Sarkisian is unethical because he is the brother of the charismatic prime minister Vazgen Sarkisian slain in 1999 October 27 parliament killings–Kocharian said "I believe that if Vazgen Sarkisian were here he would appreciate these actions and would be critical of his family’s steps… This family should have known that it had an ethical responsibility before this nation–but participating in serious crime shows no respect to the country and to the memory of their brother."

Kocharian said that he was told two weeks ago that there were enough grounds to take Armen Sarkisian into custody–but asked prosecutors to be patient and arrest him only when all other legal measures would be excluded.

Hector Sardarian–a senior prosecutor running the criminal into the killing–also strongly defended the arrest. "We had more than sufficient grounds to arrest Armen Sarkisian," he told RFE/RL.

Sardarian claimed that the case against the businessman is not based solely on the incriminating testimony given by other top suspects. One of them–a distant relative of Sarkisian–reportedly told the prosecutors that he was paid $50,000 by the latter to arrange Naghdalian’s shooting.

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