By Emil Danielyan
Murad Bojolian, the jailed former government official, had secretly collaborated with the Armenian Ministry of National Security which now accuses him of being a Turkish spy, a Yerevan court was told on Monday.
Bojolian, continuing his lengthy court testimony, claimed that he provided ministry officials with analytical reports on Turkey and information about Turkish journalists and businesspeople visiting Armenia from 1995-1996.
“The ministry officials trusted and cooperated with me, and in the end made a direct hint to join their structure,” he said, adding that he could not accept the offer because he worked in the administration of President Levon Ter-Petrosian at the time.
“If I was a Turkish spy, then why didn’t I take that excellent opportunity?” Bojolian asked, again denying the espionage charges against him.
The latest testimony followed a recent revelation that Bojolian had been recruited and trained by Soviet military intelligence, GRU, in the 1970s for possible war-time intelligence operations on Turkish territory. By publicizing that information, state prosecutors apparently sought to portray the defendant as a trained specialist capable of engaging in espionage activities.
Their indictment, briefly presented at the opening court hearing on October 24, claims that Bojolian was recruited in Yerevan in 1998 by Remzi Oskan, a Moscow correspondent for the official Turkish Anadolu news agency and, according to the prosecution, “a paid agent” of the Turkish intelligence service, MIT.
But the defendant shrugged off the charge, saying that he was simply hired by Anadolu, at Oskan’s initiative, in June 1998 to work as a freelance correspondent responsible for reporting on Armenian newspaper articles about Turkey. Bojolian said his work for Anadolu continued until February 1999 when the agency’s editors in Ankara turned down his demand for a $100 pay increase. “They found that spending $400 a month is too much for a small country where nothing special happens,” he said.
Oskan, according to Bojolian, was willing to pay only $15 for a single news report from Armenia.
Also referred to as MIT agents by the indictment are three other Turkish journalists who frequently visited Armenia in the 1990s. One of them, Mehmet Ali Birand, is Turkey’s leading television commentator and newspaper columnist. Birand interviewed President Robert Kocharian in January 2001, during his last visit to Armenia. It is not clear whether Kocharian was aware of those suspicions at the time.
Bojolian, who was born and grew up in Turkey, began working as a fixer for visiting Turkish journalists after being forced to leave the Armenian Foreign Ministry in 1993 under mysterious circumstances. In 1996, he contributed several articles to the left-wing Turkish daily “Radikal” which criticized Ankara’s hard line on Armenia. Also in that year, he joined the administration of then President Ter-Petrosian as a part-time translator and specialist on Turkey. He was fired from the presidential staff several months after Kocharian replaced Ter-Petrosian.
Bojolian told the court that he decided to become a regular contributor to Turkish media in 1998 in order to repay his debts incurred after his family bought a new apartment in Yerevan. He will continue his testimony on Wednesday.