YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian indicated Tuesday that the arrest of his close aide on charges of involvement in the recent assassinations may have been instigated by their perpetrators who are misleading investigators to achieve their main objective – to overthrow Armenia’s leadership.
The October 27 attack on parliament "can be described as a coup attempt," and the arrested gunmen who killed the country’s prime minister and other senior officials are still trying to realize their plan by implicating senior officials–Kocharian declared.
"I think that this [arrest] may have marked the start of a second phase of that plan," he told Armenia’s leading television channels and newspapers in an interview.
Kocharian already embroiled in a power struggle with the inner circle of the slain Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan suffered a major embarrassment last week when his foreign policy adviser Aleksan Harutiunian was detained and charged with "prodding" the five-member gang to commit the killings. The prosecutors’ case is based on the testimony given by the gang leader Nairi Hunanian.
While implying that Harutiunian is not guilty of any wrongdoing–Kocharian refrained from attacking the investigators led by chief military prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian. "This doesn’t mean that I mistrust the investigating team. But with Nairi Hunanian testifying against Aleksan–I begin to suspect that something is wrong there," he said.
Kocharian said he "wouldn’t be surprised" if Hunanian implicates him as well. The inquiry into the killings is characterized by "subjective factors" and a "large number of hypotheses," according to the president.
The prosecutors led by Jahangirian have not yet specified whether they think the presidential aide was the main organizer of the killings or he too executed orders. Local newspapers have alleged that investigators have exerted physical pressure on Hunanian and his accomplices to extract testimony.
Asked to comment on those allegations–Kocharian replied: "I am told that they are not subjected to violence. I can’t say if I’m hundred percent certain about that. I want to believe that such methods are not used." Kocharian was understood to imply that by casting shadow on the president and his entourage Hunanian aims to spark off a clash between different branches of Armenia’s government.
Putting an optimistic spin on the developmen’s in the country–the Armenian president claimed that the political situation is now returning to normal after the shock and mutual mistrust caused by the bloodbath in parliament.
"There is now active cooperation between the president–prime minister–government and political forces–and I think that we are now coming out of the difficult situation we found ourselves in after October 27," he said. "True–there is some tension at the moment–but the atmosphere is changing. I see some positive tendencies."
Kocharian’s position has been seriously challenged by the influential Yekrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans–who were infuriated by the death of the ex-premier and Yerkrapah’s founder.
Some Yerkrapah leaders with close ties with the military have openly called for fresh presidential elections. The new Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan–Vazgen’s brother–and Yerkrapah’s political arm–the governing Republican Party of Armenia–take a more conciliatory line.
Kocharian also argued that it will be impossible to reinvigorate the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process without continued political stability in Armenia. He said the latest visit to the region by international mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe "showed that the process was not stopped."
"I think that I will have a meeting with President Aliyev [of Azerbaijan] in January–and we will enter some processes. But I don’t see a final settlement [of the Karabakh conflict] without a stabilization of the situation in the country," he said.
Kocharian also signaled his approval of last week’s sacking of the hard-line commander of Nagorno-Karabakh’s army–General Samvel Babayan–by the unrecognized republic’s president–Arkady Ghoukassian. He welcomed Ghoukassian’s "resolve" to overcome a serious political crisis in Stepanakert.