A son of opposition leader Vartan Oskanian and one of his relatives were charged with kidnapping another man on Monday three days after being detained by the Armenian police.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee said at the weekend that the man, identified as N. Berberian, claimed that Ara Oskanian and his cousin H. Siradarian forced him into a car and drove him outside Yerevan on Thursday, demanding that he pay back 1.6 million drams ($3,400) owed to them. Berberian said he was threatened with serious violence while being illegally deprived of freedom, according to the law-enforcement agency.
Both Oskanian and Siradarian were set free on Monday despite being formally charged under an article of the Armenian Criminal Code that deals with kidnappings and carries between two and five years’ imprisonment. The Investigative Committee said it has yet to establish “a number of important circumstances” relating to the reported incident.
Ara Oskanian’s lawyer, Tigran Atanesian, said earlier in the day that he believes his client denied the allegations during a face-to-face interrogation with the alleged victim.
Oskanian’s arrest came amid unfolding preparations for Armenia’s April 2 parliamentary elections. His father, who served as foreign minister from 1998-2008, is one of the leaders of a newly formed opposition alliance that will be a major election contender.
Some supporters of Vartan Oskanian were quick to suggest that Ara’s arrest is politically motivated. But the former minister himself has made no such claims.
Atanesian, for his part, said that he sees no political motives behind the case “as yet.” “This is a fairly ordinary event which is commonplace in our legal practice,” the lawyer told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Ara Oskanian already embarrassed his father in 2005 when he ran over and injured a man in Yerevan while driving a car belonging to the Armenian Foreign Ministry.