YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Citing a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable, an Armenian law-enforcement agency has charged Armen Gevorgyan, a former top aide to former President Robert Kocharian, with obstructing justice in the wake of Armenia’s disputed 2008 presidential election.
Gevorgyan was the chief of the presidential staff during the February 2008 ballot that sparked deadly street violence in Yerevan. He went on to serve Armenia’s deputy prime minister and hold other senior positions in the administration of Kocharian’s successor, Serzh Sarkisian.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) avoided arresting Gevorgyan when it reported its decision to prosecute him late on Friday. The SIS chief, Sasun Khachatryan, said that the former official stands accused of pressuring a member of the Armenia’s Constitutional Court to uphold the official election results that gave victory to Sarkisian.
The judge, Valeri Poghosyan, met with officials from the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan on March 6, 2008, two days before the court rejected an appeal lodged by Levon Ter-Petros3.
sian, the main opposition presidential candidate. The then U.S. charge d’affaires in Yerevan, Joseph Pennington, gave a detailed account of the “secret” meeting in a diplomatic cable to Washington what was subsequently publicized by WikiLeaks.
Pennington cited Poghosyan as alleging that Kocharian has “fixed” the upcoming Constitutional Court ruling against Ter-Petrossian. “Poghosyan said he was contacted by phone and summoned to the Presidency by someone speaking on behalf of the president’s chief of staff,” the senior diplomat wrote. The judge, he said, also claimed that the presidential administration “threatened to fire his brother who works there if he could not convince Poghosyan to answer the summoning.”
According to Khachatryan, the SIS has looked into the classified message and found it to be “substantiated.” “It has been corroborated that Armen Gevorgyan tried, together with another official, to exert pressure on Valeri Poghosyan,” the SIS chief told Armenian Public Television.
However, Poghosyan, who retired in 2014, did not stand by the 2008 claims attributed to him when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Monday. He said he did not allege pressure from Kocharian’s staff when he was questioned by SIS investigators recently.
“I did not say such a thing. I told them some facts which they portray as pressure,” said the former judge who did not attend the Constitutional Court hearings on Ter-Petrossian’s appeal. He declined to reveal those “facts.”
Asked whether he or his brother did face pressure from the outgoing Armenian president in March 2008, Poghosyan said: “I did not give such testimony.” He insisted in that regard that he has never met with Gevorgyan.
Poghosyan also complained: “Did the SIS think about my security before publicizing my name? Am I a tool but not a human being for them?”
Poghosyan was an associate of Ter-Petrossian when the latter became Armenia’s first president in 1991. He served as newly independent Armenia’s minister of interior and national security before being appointed in 1996 as a member of the newly established Constitutional Court.
It is not clear whether Gevorgyan, 45, will plead guilty to the accusation leveled against him. The former vice-premier has made no public statements yet.
The obstruction of justice case is part of the SIS’s broader renewed investigation into the violent break-up on March 1-2, 2008 of nonstop anti-government demonstrations staged by the Ter-Petrossian-led opposition demanding a rerun of the presidential ballot. Eight protesters and two police servicemen were killed as a result.
Kocharian was arrested last month on charges of “overthrowing the constitutional order” at the time. He denies the charges as politically motivated.