YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Noyan Tapan)–Armenia’s Prosecutor General urged the National Assembly Monday to allow the prosecution of the former interior minister Vano Siradeghian on charges of murder. Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian said Siradeghian must be stripped of his parliamentary immunity and immediately arrested for ordering murders of two police officers in January 1994.
He alleged that the two officers were shot dead in Yerevan after failing to assassinate an Armenian-born Russian businessman–Serge Jilavian–who was at odds with the former Armenian authorities. According to the chief prosecutor–the two officers were among a group of interior minister employees sent to Moscow in December 1993 to murder Jilavian. He said there is "sufficient evidence" to claim that the killings were "ordered" by Siradeghian.
Siradeghian was Armenia’s interior minister from 1992 to 1996 and is currently the chairman of the center-right Armenian National Movement of which Ter-Petrosyan is the most famous member.
The prosecutor-general charged that the two officers–Artur Hovannisian and Karen Rafaelian–were kidnapped by the police and then murdered after returning from Moscow–unable to assassinate the businessman.
He said the murder operations were led by the former commander of the Armenian interior troops–arrested last year. He said the ex-commander Vahan Harutiunian–had admitted acting under the former interior minister’s orders. Hovsepian also told parliament that bodies of the murdered policemen were recovered last summer in a Yerevan suburb.
Hovsepian said that in 1994 Hovannisian and Rafaelian were kidnapped from the vicinity of the Yerevan Youth Center–and they were detained illegally by Interior Ministry headquarters and later at the summer residence of the Interior Ministry administrator in Vartashen–reported the Armenpress news agency.
On the night of Jan. 24–1994 and early morning of Jan. 25 of the same year–on Siradeghian’s orders–the two were taken to the crossroads of the Yerevan-Noubarashen-Vartashen abandoned highway and were shot to death. Their bodies were hidden–continued Hovsepian.
Responding to the allegations–Siradeghian said the authorities are engaging in political "repression" to "prop up their power." He accused them of leading Armenia to a "civil war" and ultimate "destruction." He said the government of President Robert Kocharian is not interested in a lasting peace with Azerbaijan and is pursuing an "irresponsible" foreign policy.
Under the Armenian constitution–a deputy of parliament can be prosecuted only if the majority of parliamentarians allow that. The National Assembly is currently discussing the issue and is due to vote on it on 26 January.
Following the Prosecutor General’s appeal to the National Assembly–Siradeghian addressed his parliamentary colleagues saying–"I made a big mistake when I promoted bringing Robert Kocharian to Armenia."
Siradeghian read a prepared speech–excerpts of which are presented below.
"What do they [the authorities] want to prove by this and what do they want from us? First of all they want to strengthen their power and strengthen their grip on power in Armenia. What was the reason of seizing power in Armenia? They seized power because they did not believe that the Karabakh issue would be settled. Moreover–they did not need a peaceful settlement to the conflict–since the political elite of Karabakh couldn’t have its place in Karabakh–where the peace was reached by peaceful means. They couldn’t be appeased by secondary positions in Armenia either," said Siradeghian accusing President Kocharian and his administration of seizing power to satisfy their own personal agenda.
In an ironic turn of events–Siradeghian accused the authorities of doing exactly what he had been accused of when he ran the powerful Interior Ministry–collusion and state-sponsored assassinations.
"What an inconceivable impudence one should have to act as judge and jury in Armenia and speak on behalf of the law–especially after the murders of Monte and Arthur Mkrtchian–after tortures and deaths of our children–our soldiers," remarked Siradeghian–making reference to US-born Karabakh commander Monte Melkonian and the first president of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Parliament Arthur Mkrtchian.
Siradeghian also went on to criticize the authorities for looting the nation’s wealth and subjecting the people of Armenia to "social torture."
Incidentally–international human right organization issued reports last year stating that under Siradeghian’s tenure as Interior Minister torture and abuse of prisoners was rampant in Armenia.
Siradeghian’s role for administring such actions was cited as one of the main points of decline for Armenia’s poor human rights record and was listed as part of the abuse tactics used by the former regime to oppress its citizens.