By Hrach Melkumian
A high court in Armenia upheld on Friday a lower-court verdict allowing state prosecutors to keep a prominent Soviet-era dissident, accused of illegal arms possession, under arrest pending the investigation.
The ex-dissident, Azat Arshakian, was arrested on September 13 after the police discovered an arms cache in the premises of a non-governmental organization, of which he is a senior member. The NGO called the Independence Army was set up in 1990 as a paramilitary group fighting Soviet and Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. The group was disbanded in the early 1990s but continued its existence as a private charity helping veterans of the war with Azerbaijan. Its leaders say it surrendered all of its weapons at the time.
Arshakian, who was a senior member of a political alliance supporting former President Levon Ter-Petrossian in 1995-98, denies any knowledge of the weapons and ammunition stashed in the Independence Army office. His defense counsel, Robert Grigorian, argues that Arshakian’s pre-trial detention, sanctioned by a Yerevan court of first instance last month, is not justified.
But Grigorian’s appeal was turned down by the Armenian Review Court. A senior prosecutor, Andranik Mirzoyan, told the court that the investigators suspect that the weapons, including parts of flame-throwers and hundreds of hand grenades, may have been used in “past crimes” by other individuals. But he refused to give any details.
Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian is a former close associate of Arshakian. He has not yet commented on the case.