Former Armenian Defense Chief Released From Jail

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Vagharshak Harutiunian–Armenia’s former defense minister and prominent member of the opposition–was released from jail late Friday evening. Harutiunian was arrested two months ago–charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government.

The head of the investigations department at Armenia’s Office of Prosecutor-General Andranik Mirzoyan–said that Harutiunian was set free because he did not impede the ongoing criminal inquiry into his political activities. Mirzoyan said that the charges leveled against the ex-minister have not been dropped–and that he may still face trial.

The move followed calls for Harutiunian’s release–by the head of the Yerevan office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–Ambassador Vladimir Pryakhin–who–earlier in the day said that the criminal case is "weak."

A senior member of the Artarutyun alliance–Harutiunian was among over a dozen opposition activists arrested last April on charges of calling for a "violent overthrow of constitutional order" and insulting senior government officials.

"We do support enforcement of the law–but in this case the accusations are quite weak because the suspect’s alleged crimes have not been properly specified," Pryakhin said–adding that he has repeatedly raised the issue with Armenian prosecutors.

Harutiunian’s defense attorney–Robert Grigorian–argued that the prosecutors have still not elaborated on their accusations. "They must specify which speeches by Vagharshak Harutiunian… are deemed an insult against government officials and which of his actions were aimed at a violent seizure of power," he said.

Harutiunian did not speak at any of the anti-Kocharian rallies held by Artarutyun and the allied National Unity Party this year. The Office of Prosecutor-General refused to comment on the details of the case–stating only that "investigative actions" continue.


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