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By Astghik Bedevian
Hakob Hakobian, a controversial parliamentarian who has spent threes days in custody for allegedly provoking a mass brawl, was busy on Thursday trying to persuade his colleagues not to lift his legal immunity from prosecution.

The National Assembly is to meet for an emergency session on Friday decide whether to allow prosecutors to press criminal charges against Hakobian over his role in a weekend violence at a gas distribution facility near Yerevan.

Hakobian, who was released from jail the previous night, spent about five hours meeting representatives of various parliament factions to explain “what happened in reality.” Speaking to RFE/RL afterwards, he seemed confident of the parliament’s refusal to allow his prosecution. “Am I guilty?” he asked sarcastically before adding, “I participated [in the brawl] and did everything.” He refused to elaborate.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and other leaders of governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which Hakobian joined recently, were meeting late Thursday to discuss the embarrassing affair and formulate a common stance. Samvel Nikoyan, a senior Republican, said before the meeting that the party, beset by opposition allegations that it is harboring “criminal elements” within its ranks, will likely agree to the lawmaker’s prosecution.

“The Republican Party’s position is as follows: we must enable law-enforcement bodies to conduct an investigation,” said Nikoyan. “If they want to charge him, then I think the Republican Party will respect that request.”

But a well-informed parliament source told RFE/RL that most members of the National Assembly will refuse to lift Hakobian’s immunity even if the Republicans, who control the largest parliament faction, decide otherwise. The source claimed that Hakobian, who is a wealthy businessman, has already cut a deal with the presidential administration that will allow him to avoid imprisonment in return for surrendering some of his business assets, notably buildings leased by a private commercial bank, Ardshininvest. The bank is allegedly controlled by President Robert Kocharian’s older son Sedrak.

Sources also said the authorities have told Hakobian not to attend Friday’s parliament session in order to make sure that he does not disclose details of his arrest by officers of Kocharian’s personal security service. The chief of the service, Grisha Sarkisian, is the honorary chairman of the Armenian Karate Federation whose members guard the gas facility under an agreement with the ARG national gas distribution company.

Hakobian reportedly visited the facility to demand restoration of fuel supplies to nearby liquefied gas stations owned by him.

(Photolur photo: Hakob Hakobian.)
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