A self-styled scholar who ran in last month’s Armenian presidential election has been arrested and charged with organizing an apparent attempt on the life of another outsider candidate, Paruyr Hayrikian.
A Yerevan court remanded Vartan Sedrakian in a two-month pre-trial custody late on Tuesday immediately after he was questioned by the National Security Service (NSS) in connection with the January 31 attack on Hayrikian.
An NSS statement issued on Wednesday said Sedrakian was formally charged under an article of the Armenian Criminal Code dealing with attempts to kill a “state, political or public figure.” It gave no further details. Sedrakian will face at least 10 years in prison if found guilty.
Sedrakian’s lawyer, Aleksandr Sirunian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the 45-year-old strongly denies the charges. Sirunian said NSS investigators have not yet presented him and his client with any evidence substantiating the charge.
Sedrakian predicted his arrest one week before the February 18 presidential election. He said the authorities will exploit the fact that he personally knows two arrested men accused of shooting and wounding Hayrikian.
The NSS says that both suspects, Khachatur Poghosian and Samvel Harutiunian, have confessed to the shooting. But it has said nothing about their motives until now.
Sedrakian revealed that one of the arrested men was among several workers who remodeled his country house last year, while the other drove a taxi regularly used by them. He also said that he recently paid both men to distribute his election campaign booklets to voters.
“They [the suspects] will sign any testimony,” Sedrakian told a news conference on February 12. “One of them is a drug addict, while the other one will be beaten so much that he will sign anything they want.”
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Hayrikian said he does not think that Sedrakian may be the main mastermind of the shooting. He said the fellow election contender might have acted only as an “intermediary” in what he regards as a murder plot.
Sedrakian, who refers to himself as an expert on Armenian epic poems, was the most obscure of the eight presidential candidates. Few Armenians heard about him before the presidential election campaign. He sought to make a name for himself with extravagant campaign promises during the race.
Sedrakian’s political connections and affiliations as well as the source of his apparent wealth have been a subject of media speculation. The non-partisan candidate claimed earlier this year that he is ready to spend as much as $2 million on his election campaign. He held virtually no campaign rallies, however.
According to the Central Election Commission, Sedrakian garnered 0.42 percent of the vote, compared with 1.23 percent polled by Hayrikian.