By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A senior prosecutor confirmed on Wednesday reports about the arrest of a man suspected of plotting to assassinate Armenia’s influential Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
Deputy Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian told RFE/RL that the man, identified as Levon Abrahamian, is a former officer of the National Security Service who was sentenced to eight years in prison in 1998 on charges of kidnapping an ethnic Armenian businessman from Iran. Hovsepian refused to divulge any other details of the case.
News of the arrest was announced by the prosecutor-general’s office late on Tuesday. In a statement, it said a criminal case has been opened against Abrahamian under an article of the Armenian criminal code that deals with attempts on the lives of “state, political and public figures.” The statement did not claim that Abrahamian sought to kill Sarkisian, saying only that he planned to commit a “heavy crime” with explosive materials.
That Sarkisian was the target of the alleged assassination bid was first reported the next morning by the “Hayots Ashkhar” daily which is close to the Armenian defense chief.
The suspect, who had been amnestied in 2001 before completing his jail term, is expected to be formally charged with attempted murder on Thursday. It is not yet known whether he will plead guilty to the accusation. His lawyer, Marina Janoyan, could be reached for comment.
Sarkisian is not in Armenia at the moment, according to Seyran Shahsuvarian, spokesman for the Armenian Defense Ministry. Shahsuvarian said he does not think that his boss was aware of the alleged plan to kill him.
A figure close to President Robert Kocharian, Sarkisian is seen by many observers as the second most powerful official in Armenia. The two men were the wartime leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh and have jointly dominated Armenian politics for the past four years.