By Emil Danielyan
Murad Bojolian, a former Armenian government official tried for allegedly spying for Turkey, said Monday that fear of torture and concerns about the safety of his family had led him to admit to the charges hours after his arrest last January.
Bojolian, ending his lengthy court speech in tears, said his “self-defamatory testimony,” which he later retracted, is at the heart of the controversial espionage case brought by the National Security Ministry. Overwhelmed by emotions, he again challenged the prosecution to present “concrete facts” that could prove his guilt.
“A ministry investigator warned me that only the president of the republic can save me [from a death sentence] if I admit my guilt,” he said. “At that point it became evident to me that the question of my being guilty has already been decided and that everything will be done to extract a false confession from me.”
“Also, it was necessary to ensure security of my wife and three children, as…I feared that certain extremist forces might terrorize my family after hearing what I am accused of.”
Bojolian and his wife Lyudmila were detained by national security agents near the Georgian border as they traveled to Turkey, ostensibly to buy goods for their market stall in Yerevan. She was kept in detention for a day and set free after her husband, a Turkish affairs specialist and former diplomat, accepted the accusations.
Bojolian, 52, gave a totally different testimony in July, in which he categorically denied the allegations that he had provided sensitive information about Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh to the Turkish intelligence service, MIT. “How could I find out Armenian state secrets and convey them to Turkey without being caught red handed for so many years?” he asked on Monday. “I have never had access to state secrets.”
Bojolian argued that the investigators have failed to prove his alleged links with MIT and that none of the witnesses called by state prosecutors is relevant to the case. One of them confirmed the hitherto secret fact that Bojolian had been trained by Soviet military intelligence in the 1970s for possible war-time operations against Turkey.
“What does the fact that I had undergone training to engage in intelligence operations on Turkish territory have to do with the indictment? Is being a former Soviet intelligence operative a crime in modern-day Armenia?” the defendant asked, adding: “I regard that as an attempt to justify the absence of evidence.”
Three other witnesses, whose testimony was heard in absentia, are Yerevan-based Turkish Kurds officially identified as members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a rebel group banned in Turkey. None of them confirmed the prosecutors’ claims that the defendant sought from them information about possible PKK presence in Armenia.
The prosecution maintains that Bojolian, who was born in Turkey and held a senior post in the Armenian Foreign Ministry in 1991-93, was “recruited” in 1998 by MIT agents acting under the guise of journalists visiting Armenia. The defendant often worked for them as a fixer and occasionally contributed articles to the Turkish media.
Bojolian insists that he knew nothing about the Turkish journalists’ alleged ties with MIT and worked with them only to support his family after becoming increasingly mired in debt. He claims that he still owes several thousand dollars to several creditors.
It emerged on Monday that another well-known individual suspected by Armenian law-enforcement authorities of being a MIT agent is Kaan Soyak, a co-chairman of the Turkish-Armenian Business Council (TABC), a private group promoting commercial ties between the two countries. The Armenian government has tacitly supported its activities over the past decade.
Soyak, who has lobbied the Turkish government to normalize relations with Yerevan, regularly visits Armenia. As recently as last April, he was personally greeted by Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian at an international conference in Yerevan sponsored by the European Union.
The prosecutors are expected to detail their case against the defendant during the next court sessions. Bojolian charged that they have already shattered his reputation and ruined his career. “I know very well that regardless of the outcome of this trial I will be forever deprived of a possibility to work as a scholar and journalist,” he said, struggling to contain tears.