By Shakeh Avoyan
Mushegh Saghatelian, the jailed former chief of Armenia’s prison system, on Tuesday again pleaded not guilty to all counts of torture, fabrication of false evidence and fraud. Testifying before a court that will likely give him a lengthy prison sentence, Saghatelian claimed that he is paying the price for accusing President Robert Kocharian of masterminding the October 1999 terrorist attack on the parliament.
Saghatelian is charged, among other things, with seeking false testimony implicating Kocharian in the assassination of former prime minister Vazgen Sarkisian, former parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and six other officials.
“I suspect Robert Kocharian and [Defense Minister] Serzh Sarkisian of being the masterminds of October 27,” he said during his cross-examination.
Most of the charges leveled against Saghatelian stem from the past mistreatment of scores of detainees, many of whom were political opponents of Armenia’s former leadership.
In particular, he is accused of personally beating several opposition figures arrested in a government crackdown that followed the fraudulent presidential elections of September 1996. State prosecutors allege that the notorious former prison boss also was among top security officials who tortured in June 1995 a group of senior police officers suspected of plotting a coup d’etat.
But Saghatelian denied beating or witnessing the mistreatment of anybody on both occasions. He further accused the authorities of “tarnishing the image” of the late Vazgen Sarkisian who is being posthumously investigated over his alleged role in the 1995 beating. Saghatelian claimed that Sarkisian did not use force against any of the arrested police officers, but did not deny that they were subjected to violence.