By Ruzanna Stepanian
A close associate of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and another opposition activist have been released from detention pending trial on charges stemming from their active involvement in post-election street protests in Yerevan.
Karapet Rubinian, a former deputy parliament speaker who managed Ter-Petrosian’s election campaign in Yerevan’s Shengavit district, was arrested by the National Security Service (NSS) two days after the March 1 clashes between opposition supporters and security forces. He was charged with attempting to “usurp power” and organizing “mass riots.”
The other oppositionist, Tigran Baghdasarian, was arrested during the dispersal earlier on March 1 of Ter-Petrosian’s tent camp in Yerevan’s Liberty Square for allegedly resisting police. Baghdasarian, who is a member of the Armenian Union of Painters, was released by a Yerevan court on $1,600 bail Monday.
Rubinian’s release, conditional on his written pledge not to leave Yerevan, was ordered by Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian later on Monday. Hovsepian’s office attributed the move to the end of “investigative actions” involving Rubinian.
Rubinian dismissed this explanation on Tuesday, saying that his only contact with NSS investigators was on the day of his arrest when he refused to answer any questions from them. He said they have made no further attempts to interrogate him since then.
In an interview with RFE/RL, the Rubinian said he thinks he was set free because the Armenian authorities are under growing pressure from the Council of Europe and other international bodies to release Ter-Petrosian loyalists prosecuted on seemingly political charges. Still, he claimed that the authorities will not fully comply with a resolution on Armenia adopted by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) last month. “Rest assured that they’ll find ways of fooling the Europeans,” he said.
The authorities insist that they will meet this and other demands contained in the resolution. A working group formed by President Serzh Sarkisian submitted relevant proposals to the head of state on Monday. So far only four prominent oppositionists have been released from pre-trial detention. Dozens of others remain under arrest, awaiting trial on charges mainly stemming from the deadly unrest.
Rubinian insisted that the accusations brought against him were “fabricated” for political purposes. He acknowledged that was among thousands of Ter-Petrosian supporters who barricaded themselves outside the Yerevan mayor’s office on March 1 but said he had no hand in the ensued pitched battles between some of the protesters and advancing security forces.
(Photolur photo: Karapet Rubinian.)