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The Armenian police have formally charged a pro-opposition businessman with “imprisoning a person” in what the latter claims to be a case of persecution over his political views.

Earlier, Saribek Sukiasian and his associate were held in police custody for three days on suspicion of threatening to kill a fellow entrepreneur and gun possession.

Police authorities on Friday said, however, that the person who had filed the murder threat claim against Sukiasian later retracted it.

Sukiasian’s lawyer called the charge “ridiculous”.

“This is an ungrounded and ridiculous charge. A different purpose is hidden in it,” lawyer Yervand Varosian told RFE/RL, implying rival business interests.

Saribek Sukiasian was detained last week and held for three days in police custody for gun possession and making death threats. He was released without a charge on Monday but was told to be available while the investigation of the claims was in progress.

Sukiasian denies the charges against him and says they are part of a wider plot against businesses belonging to his extended family.

SIL Concern holding company co-owner Sukiasian is the younger brother of prominent businessman and former parliament deputy Khachatur Sukiasian, who is facing criminal charges for his alleged role in the deadly March 2008 clashes after the disputed presidential election.

In the fall of 2007, Khachatur Sukiasian announced his support for former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s candidacy in the February 2008 presidential election. Armenian authorities responded by accusing him of tax evasion and confiscating several companies he owned.

Earlier this week Saribek Sukiasian issued an appeal to Armenia’s top political leaders to ensure a fair investigation in his case. He further warned Armenia’s leaders that failing to properly investigate his case will have far-reaching repercussions on the country’s business environment.

Meanwhile, at a press conference on Friday, chief of Yerevan police Nerses Nazarian brushed aside the recent media allegations about his “having a hand” in Saribek Sukiasian’s arrest. He said his personal friendship with Ruben Hayrapetian, a government-linked business rival of the Sukiasian family, had no role in the developments.
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