By Shakeh Avoyan
The fugitive former interior minister Vano Siradeghian’s hopes to get reelected to the parliament were on Monday dashed by an Armenian appeals court which effectively ruled against his registration as a candidate.
The Review Court backed the interior ministry’s appeal against an earlier court verdict forcing the latter to certify that Siradeghian resided in Armenia at least until April 2000 when he went on the run from prosecution on murder charges. The ruling means that he will not be able to contest the May 19 by-election in his native Noyemberian region in northern Armenia.
Under Armenian law only those citizens who have lived “permanently” in the country for the previous five years are eligible to run for the parliament. Siradeghian’s allies from the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), the former ruling party, argue that the authorities can not prove that the ex-minister has been absent from the country for much of the past five years.
“Vano Siradeghian’s right to become elected has been violated,” a senior HHSh member, Andranik Hovakimian, told RFE/RL.
The interior ministry’s passport department, however, insists that Siradeghian should himself offer proof of his residency. Its refusal to certify his residency meant that the HHSh missed the April 14 deadline for the submission of all required documents to a local election commission.
Hovakimian claimed that Monday’s court ruling was “ordered” by the authorities which he said fear another electoral victory by one of their most outspoken opponents. Siradeghian, who served as interior minister in 1992-96, was already elected to the parliament from the same constituency in May 1999. Last November, fellow legislators voted to revoke his mandate on the grounds of his absenteeism.
Siradeghian is believed to have fled Armenia two years ago, anticipating his arrest on charges of ordering a series of political killings while in power. He had already been facing trial on those charges. The ex-minister and his allies, including former president Levon Ter-Petrosian, have consistently rejected them as politically motivated.
The HHSh continues to deny any knowledge of its leader’s whereabouts.