By Shakeh Avoyan
Azat Arshakian, a leader of the Independence Army, denied on Tuesday any knowledge of an arms cache found at the premises of the former paramilitary group as a Yerevan court allowed prosecutors to keep him under arrest pending investigation. The court prolonged by two months Arshakian’s pre-trial detention, ignoring his claims of innocence.
Police say they discovered a stockpile of weapons and ammunition, including parts of flame-throwers and hundreds of hand grenades, in the office of what is now a non-governmental organization helping veterans of the war with Azerbaijan.
“I didn’t know about their existence,” a handcuffed Arshakian told RFE/RL as he was taken away from the courthouse. “It was a provocation, a timely one,” he added without elaborating.
“He didn’t store the weapons, some other individuals did,” Arshakian’s lawyer, Robert Grigorian, said. But he refused to give any names. He said the court’s decision to keep his client under arrest was not justified.
The Independence Army was formed in the late 1980s by several Soviet-era dissidents, including Arshakian and the current Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, to fight Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The group was disbanded in the early 1990s but continued its existence as a private charity. Its leaders say it surrendered all of its weapons at the time.
Arshakian is also a former leader of the small Christian Democratic Union party which was part of a political alliance supporting former president Levon Ter-Petrossian.