Lieutenant-General Alik Sargsian, the former head of the Armenian police, on Tuesday urged a Yerevan court to free another high-ranking police officer pending a verdict in his ongoing trial on corruption charges.
He said Colonel Margar Ohanian, the former traffic police chief, should be released from custody for now on “moral” grounds.
“He is a high-ranking police officer,” Sargsian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “He has served this country for 30 years. He may have erred, but the damage has been reversed. It’s wrong to try him as an ordinary criminal.”
“Had I not felt embarrassed, I would have personally gone to the court and asked the judge to do that,” said the police general who now works as an adviser to President Serzh Sarkisian. He expressed confidence that Ohanian will not obstruct justice if set free.
Ohanian was arrested and sacked in September in a criminal investigation into the alleged theft of more than 150 tons of fuel that was allotted to traffic police cars. Sargsian headed the national police service at the time. He was unexpectedly dismissed two months later.
Ohanian denied the charges throughout the investigation conducted by the Special Investigative Service (SIS), saying that he is not responsible for the alleged embezzlement. Speaking at the start of his trial on Monday, he said the SIS decided to prosecute him after a phone call from a senior state official. He declined to name the latter.
Alik Sargsian refused to speculate on who might have phoned SIS investigators. He said only that no police official could have done that.
Ohanian’s lawyers have already petitioned a district court in Yerevan to order his release. The court rejected the request on Monday.
While protesting his innocence, Ohanian announced through one of the lawyers last month that he, his family, and friends have raised more than $100,000 to compensate the state for the alleged misappropriation.