Armenian law-enforcement have formally closed a criminal cases against opposition-linked businessman Khachatur Sukiasian stemming from his alleged role in the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan, it emerged on Tuesday.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) handed a copy of the decision, attributed to a lack of evidence, to Sukiasian’s lawyers. One of them, Ara Zakarian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that it was dated October 19. He said SIS investigators gave no explanation for the three-month delay.
Armen Khachatrian, a legal representative of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), criticized the “illogical” delay, saying that the SIS violated Armenia’s Code of Procedural Justice. He suggested that the charges leveled against Sukiasian were dropped only several days ago.
One of Armenia’s wealthiest men and a former parliament deputy, Sukiasian strongly backed HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian in the February 2008 presidential election and the ensuing opposition protests quelled by security forces. He was among several Ter-Petrosian associates who fled the country to escape arrest following the unrest.
The tycoon surrendered to the police in September 2009 and was set free three days later despite remaining charged with organizing “mass riots” in Yerevan. He resigned from his parliament seat before being allowed to leave the country, ostensibly for receiving medical treatment abroad. According to some unconfirmed reports, he is now based in Germany.
Sukiasian got in trouble with the authorities in late 2007 shortly after backing Ter-Petrosian’s bid to return to power. Several companies making up his SIL Concern group were raided by tax officials and accused of large-scale tax fraud.
One of them, a mineral water plant, was confiscated by the state after refusing to pay almost 5.2 billion drams ($14.3 million) in tax fines. Sukiasian and his extended family rejected the fraud accusations as baseless and politically motivated.
“Right from the beginning, it was obvious that he should not have been prosecuted in the first place,” the HAK’s Khachatrian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He said the SIS’s decision showed that similar charges leveled against dozens of other opposition figures are also unsubstantiated.
About a dozen Ter-Petrosian loyalists arrested in 2008 remain in prison.