By Karine Kalantarian
A Yerevan court on Friday upheld the refusal by election officials to register Eduard Madatian, a fugitive former transport minister charged with plotting to assassinate Armenia’s top leaders, as a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Madatian is believed to have fled the country in November 2004 to avoid prosecution for allegedly masterminding a failed attempt on the life of President Robert Kocharian and then Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. His whereabouts have remained unknown since then, with law-enforcement authorities saying only that he lives abroad.
A criminal investigation into the alleged assassination bid was suspended in July 2005 due to their failure to track down and arrest Madatian. Few details of the mysterious criminal case have been made public.
Madatian, who ran the Armenian Ministry of Transport and Communications from 1999-2002, reminded the government of his existence last month when newspaper reports revealed his intention to run for parliament from a single-mandate constituency in Yerevan’s southern Erebuni district. The ex-minister, better known to local residents as Khuchuch (Curly) Edo, wielded considerable economic and political influence in the area before going into hiding.
The district election commission rejected the registration request on the grounds that Madatian failed to submit a police statement certifying that he has resided in Armenia for the past five years, something which is required by law. The Erebuni court of first instance upheld the decision, rejecting an appeal lodged on behalf of Madatian by his brother Grigor and lawyer, Hovik Arsenian,.
Both men claimed that the ex-minister actually lives in Armenia and is hiding from police because he fears for his life. “Eduard Madatian did permanently reside in Armenia in 2005 and 2006,” Arsenian told the court.
Seeking to substantiate the claims, Grigor Madatian dialed an undisclosed number on his mobile phone to call a man who identified himself as his fugitive brother. The man told RFE/RL that he is currently in Armenia and will turn himself in if he is registered as a candidate.
Under Armenian law, parliamentary election candidates can be detained and prosecuted only with the Central Election Commission’s permission.
A police representative, Taguhi Hovsepian, defended the Erebuni police department’s refusal to certify Madatian’s eligibility for the elections. “How can we certify his residency in Armenia?” she told the court. “Maybe that person doesn’t physically exist anymore.”
Hovsepian also said the police discovered in 2005 that Madatian had obtained Russian citizenship in 1994 in violation of Armenia’s constitution which did not allow dual nationality until recently.