YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A global association of scout organizations on Wednesday made an emotional appeal for the release of one of its senior members accused of complicity in the October 27 assassinations in the Armenian parliament.
The secretary-general of the Geneva-based World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM)–Jacques Moreillon–renewed his earlier assurances that Harutiun Harutiunian–who is also a deputy director of Armenian National Television–is not guilty and must be set free.
Harutiunian was arrested in early January on charges of "assisting" gunmen who burst into the parliament chamber killing eight senior officials. The arrest stoked controversy about Armenian prosecutors’ handling of the investigation into the bloodbath.
"Harut Harutiunian–president of the Eurasia scout region–is innocent and has nothing to do in prison," Moreillon told a press conference in Yerevan. "I know him like I know myself and I am totally convinced of his innocence," he said.
The world scout leader was speaking after a meeting with Armenia’s chief military prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian–the man who runs the politically-charged inquiry. Moreillon said he reiterated WOSM concerns to Jahangirian and hopes he "was understood" even though the latter said the investigators are on the right track.
Jahangirian’s handling of the case has been at the center of recent political battles in Armenia between supporters of President Robert Kocharian–who have repeatedly criticized it–and government factions close to Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan–whose brother Vazgen was killed in the parliament shootings.
The WOSM wrote to Kocharian on January 13–expressing concern at the criminal proceedings against the arrested TV official. Moreillon–who was allowed to meet with Harutiunian in jail earlier on Wednesday–said he is sure that in the event of a fair trial "Harut will be acquitted–especially if there are international observers." But failure to ensure a fair trial–he warned–would again damage Armenia’s image abroad.
Jahangirian and other military prosecutors have repeatedly dismissed allegations that they are manipulating the probe for political aims. They have also denied Harutiunian’s and other suspects’ claims about their mistreatment in custody.