By Karine Kalantarian
Law-enforcement authorities refused to disclose on Thursday the names of six persons they say were arrested the previous day on suspicion of involvement in last December’s assassination of Tigran Naghdalian, the head of Armenia’s state television and radio.
The spokesman for the Prosecutor-General’s office, Gurgen Ambarian, told RFE/RL that their identity is being withheld “in the interests of the investigation.” Ambarian argued that the authorities are currently hunting for several other suspects. He said all of the detainees will be formally charged later in the day with planning and carrying out the mysterious killing.
The Armenian Police announced the previous night that among those arrested was the man who personally gunned down Naghdalian on December 29 with a single shot in the head. The police said they have also found his Russian-made TT pistol widely used in contract killings across the former Soviet Union.
News of the arrests coincided with the publication of first election results which showed President Robert Kocharian heading for a landslide victory. It raised fears among opposition activists that the authorities will use the unsolved case to stifle allegations of electoral fraud and crack down on the opposition. Some speculated that the arrested suspects could be linked to the Hanrapetutyun which strongly supports opposition presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian.
But speaking to RFE/RL, Hanrapetutyun leaders categorically denied the speculation. “None of the people close to me was arrested,” said Aram Sarkisian, a former prime minister and Kocharian’s bitter foe.
“None of our members can be involved in Tigran Naghdalian’s murder in any way,” agreed the party’s chairman, Albert Bazeyan. “I can’t understand the timing of that news. Why did it coincide with the elections?”
Naghdalian was a staunch supporter of Kocharian and some presidential loyalists implicitly blamed the opposition for his murder. However, a criminal inquiry launched by the authorities did not produce any results until this week.