By Astghik Bedevian
Law-enforcement authorities said on Friday that opposition leader Artashes Geghamian has failed to substantiate his extraordinary murder allegations against Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, his bitter political foe.
They said they will therefore not launch a criminal investigation into the allegations that have been laughed off by Sarkisian and other representatives of the government camp.
Geghamian publicly charged on January 15 that Sarkisian and his controversial brother Aleksandr had plotted to assassinate Gagik Tsarukian, a powerful businessman close to President Robert Kocharian. He said Kocharian ordered a crackdown on Aleksandr’s businesses after law-enforcement authorities foiled the plot in 2005.
Tsarukian, who also leads a rapidly growing political party, swiftly dismissed the claims as “absurd.” Sarkisian was even more scathing, again branding the outspoken oppositionist an “empty person.”
Geghamian, who leads one of Armenia’s largest opposition parties, was summoned to the Prosecutor-General’s Office and questioned over his conspiracy theory on Thursday. According to Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian, Geghamian said he heard about the alleged murder plot “from here and here” and has no concrete facts to substantiate it.
“Geghamian asserts that he heard about that from random conversations, café gossips and during meetings with his voters,” Hovsepian told reporters. “The explanation does not provide us with any facts to open an investigation into his statements.”
Hovsepian made it clear that Geghamian will not be prosecuted for “slandering” Armenia’s seconded most powerful official. The prosecutors lack the evidence to accuse the oppositionist of deliberately spreading disinformation, he said.
In an open letter to Hovsepian made public on Monday, Geghamian accused the Armenian government of using the law-enforcement bodies as tools of political repression but did not elaborate on his Sarkisian-related accusations. He instead advised the prosecutors to investigate why Tsarukian and Aleksandr Sarkisian stopped doing business together and why the latter has been absent from Armenia for long periods.
Geghamian also said Tsarukian has increased the number of bodyguards surrounding him over the past two years. “Shouldn’t the Prosecutor-General’s Office think about who Mr. Tsarukian bewares of?” he asked.
(Photolur photo: Artashes Geghamian.)