By Emil Danielyan and Ruzanna Stepanian
President Robert Kocharian continued a sweeping reshuffle of his security apparatus on Monday, dismissing four district prosecutors in Yerevan -- a move widely linked to the intensifying opposition campaign for his resignation.
The presidential decree followed last week’s unexpected sacking of Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian and over a dozen high-level staff changes in the Armenian police. Kocharian met with the leadership of the national Police Service on Friday. Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, he again claimed that the role and prestige of the Prosecutor’s Office decreased under Tamazian and needs to be “restored” if the authorities are to strengthen the rule of law.
“It must be restored with the help of people who have the skills to do that,” he said, promising more replacements in the law-enforcement agency.
The sacked prosecutors oversaw seven of the city’s eleven administrative districts. The most famous of their successors is John Farkhoyan who led the continuing investigation into the 1999 parliament massacre before the appointment. Farkhoyan will now be responsible for law and order in Yerevan’s southern Shengavit district.
Two other new prosecutors, Gevorg Tovmasian and Hakob Babayan, have also been in the team of investigators ever since the politically charged case was removed last year from the jurisdiction of military prosecutors who had suspected in the past Kocharian’s involvement in the parliament killings.
“We are primarily strengthening those bodies,” Kocharian said. He did not deny what many local analysts believe is the main motive for the reshuffle: to prepare for a campaign of opposition demonstrations in central Yerevan due early next month.
Some commentators claim that the authorities will try to stifle the protests with mass arrests of supporters and even leaders of the opposition. A similar crackdown, condemned by the West, occurred last year during opposition protests against the official results of the disputed presidential election.
“What you are thinking is also true,” a smiling Kocharian told a correspondent for a pro-opposition newspaper on Friday. He went on to deride his opponents as individuals guided by “a tramp’s mentality.”
The opposition reaction was not long in coming. “We know very well who is a tramp and we will soon expel him from the country,” a senior member of the Artarutyun (Justice) bloc, Stepan Zakarian, declared at an opposition rally in Yerevan’s Davitashen district on Saturday.
“This is Kocharian’s first confession in the last six years. Only Robert Kocharian has made statements befitting tramps,” charged another prominent oppositionist, Victor Dallakian.
Dallakian also said that Artarutyun will officially inform supporters on March 31 about when they should take to the streets of the capital for demanding Kocharian’s resignation. The opposition alliance led by Stepan Demirchian had earlier set an April 12 deadline for the start of “decisive actions.”