YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenian Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian on Friday announced that the files pertaining to a criminal investigation launched in 1988 into the activities of the Karabakh Committee are now being kept by former president Levon Ter-Petrosian, a leading member of the Committee and one of the accused in the notorious criminal case.
Hovsepian further revealed that Ter-Petrosian ordered the case files to be given to him when he was still serving as president.
"I had ordered for the case to be taken from the archives and given to me, but it turned out that the case was missing. Naturally, I ordered an internal investigation. It established that the chief of the investigation department in 1996 took that case from the archive following the order of the then prosecutor-general and forwarded it to the first president Levon Ter-Petrosian on November 6, 1996," the prosecutor-general said.
According to Hovsepian, the disappearance of the materials transpired only in late October after the Iravunk newspaper requested information related to the case. The request, however, could not be met, since a search revealed that the 50-volume criminal case was absent from the archives.
Meanwhile, observers tend to mistrust the claims of the Prosecutor-General’s Office that they had no knowledge about the circumstances until recently. It is feared that the occasion may be used to pressurize the growing opposition movement led by Ter-Petrosian in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.
"We have formally requested that Levon Ter-Petrosian should return the case to the prosecutor’s office," Hovsepian said. "What was done in 1996 was a gross violation of the law as even the president of the republic is not entitled to request and keep criminal cases."
In a written statement released late on Friday Ter-Petrosian replied to the prosecutor-general’s remarks.
"Following my request in 1995 or 1996, Armenia’s Prosecutor-General Artavazd Gevorgian sent the Karabakh Committee case to the Presidential Palace for the purpose of further putting it for display at a museum of the Karabakh Movement that was to be opened in 1998, on the tenth anniversary of the movement," Ter-Petrosian said. "After the change of power, all materials of the Karabakh Committee case were transferred to my personal archive and have been kept there to date. None of the prosecutor-generals that succeeded Artavazd Gevorgian in office have requested that I shall return the materials. I still think that the most appropriate place for keeping these materials is a museum of the Karabakh Movement, which will be opened sooner or later. But if there is any necessity, I am ready to return them immediately to the archives of the prosecutor’s office."
Hovsepian was a member of the group that carried out the investigation of the case against nine members of the Karabakh Committee accused of making public statemen’s against the Soviet regime and calling for the Armenian-populated autonomous region in the neighboring Soviet Azerbaijan to be included into the administrative borders of Armenia.
The case, however, was formally dismissed because of "changed circumstances" the following year, the jailed members of the committee were released and the materials were sent to the archives.