Absent Siradeghian Enrages Defendants Prosecutors At Trial

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The former interior minister Vano Siradeghian was accused on Monday of obstructing his ongoing trial on murder charges after failure to attend a planned court session in Yerevan. State prosecutors and 11 other defendants charged that Siradeghian is playing for time and demanded his incarceration for the rest of the trial.

A Yerevan court rejected their demand to seek the parliament’s permission for detaining the ex-minister–and instead ordered him to come to the next session on Tuesday.

Siradeghian–who was one of the closest associates to the former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan–is charged with ordering the murders of several prominent public figures and two police officers while in power from 1992 to 1995. Unlike the other defendants–he was not taken into custody by virtue of being a member of the previous and present parliamen’s. A separate trial of nine other men who the prosecutors say made up a death squad that had executed Siradeghian’s orders is drawing to a close.

Siradeghian and his former ruling Armenian National Movement say the charges were trumped up for political considerations.

"It is clear that the man behind all those crimes remains at large with the help of the former National Assembly," said Kim Balayan–a former parliament deputy from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation whom Siradeghian allegedly plotted to kill in 1994. He is taking part in the trial as a "victim" supporting the prosecutors’ case against the flamboyant ANM leader.

Balayan and the rest of the defendants demanded the judge suspend the proceedings and petition the current parliament to allow Siradeghian’s arrest pending a verdict. But the judge only ruled that the latter would be forcibly brought into the court chamber unless he shows up on Tuesday. The once powerful ex-minister is widely perceived to be dragging on the proceedings in the hope that sweeping political changes will prevent President Robert Kocharian–his principal foe–from pressing on the high-profile case.


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