By Karine Kalantarian
Armenian prosecutors are looking into a mysterious disappearance of a high-profile criminal case after an archive search could not produce it following last week’s media request for information.
Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian ordered an internal inquiry on October 31 to clarify the circumstances immediately after a 50-volume 1988 criminal case against Karabakh Committee members was reported missing from the prosecutorial system archives.
Spokeswoman Sona Truzian told RFE/RL on Wednesday that a media outlet, which she refused to name, had submitted a request for information related to that case.
The request, however, could not be met, since a search revealed the files were absent from the archives, she added.
According to Truzian, former and current employees of the system’s archive office have already been questioned as part of the inquiry.
According to what RFE/RL was told at the Prosecutor’s Office, materials on any criminal case are provided from the archives in accordance with a special procedure and only with special permission. Those requesting for information can get acquainted with the materials or make a copy of them only within the premises of the Prosecutor’s Office.
Representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office refuse to divulge any details of the ongoing inquiry pending its formal completion.
Meanwhile, the case has already given rise to various speculations regarding the reasons for the disappearance of the archive materials, including files on the then Karabakh movement leaders Levon Ter-Petrosian, Vazgen Manukian and others.
Talking to RFE/RL, Samson Ghazarian, a former member of the Karabakh Committee, questioned the integrity and competence of the prosecutorial system and said: “If the Prosecutor’s Office cannot establish control even over the things happening within its system, if a prosecutor can be shot dead in his office and a criminal case can disappear, how can they possibly organize proper oversight of criminal cases involving citizens?”
The so-called Karabakh Committee case was launched in December 1988, with the leaders of the movement charged with public statements against the Soviet regime. Those primarily included their secessionist claims for an Armenian-populated autonomous region in the neighboring Soviet republic of Azerbaijan to be included into the administrative borders of then Soviet Armenia.
The case, however, was formally dismissed and its materials archived following “changed circumstances” the following year.