By Emil Danielyan
Murad Bojolian, the jailed Armenian scholar and former diplomat, said on Friday that he had wrongly portrayed several of his Turkish acquaintances as Turkish intelligence agents in a desperate bid to make his “false confession” of espionage sound credible.
Speaking at his ongoing controversial trial, Bojolian again claimed that he admitted to spying for Turkey hours after being arrested last January because he feared for his life and his family’s security.
“Everything was fabricated in that false confession,” the defendant said during his cross-examination. “To make it convincing, I gave names of concrete persons who might be linked to their country’s special services.”
One of the Turks named by him is Kaan Soyak, a co-chairman of the Turkish-Armenian Business Council (TABC), a private group promoting commercial ties between the two countries. Bojolian’s assurances earlier this week that his relations Soyak were “only business-like” suggested that the latter is suspected by the Armenian authorities of having ties with the Turkish intelligence service MIT.
However, state prosecutors at the trial made it clear on Friday that neither they nor other Armenian law-enforcement agencies have such suspicions. Soyak is known as a longtime advocate of Turkish-Armenian rapprochement and has consistently urged Ankara to soften its Armenian policy. The TABC is thought to operate with the tacit backing of the Armenian and Turkish governments that use it as a informal channel of communication in the absence of diplomatic relations.
Bojolian, who worked for the TABC in the late 1990s and knows Soyak personally, also retracted his incriminatory testimony given against a Turkish businessman who was active in Armenia until recently and three other Turks whom he met in Istanbul in 2000.
One of them was identified as Gurol. According to Armenian National Security Ministry officials, this is the codename of Aytac Urkan, the Turkish military attaché and the alleged MIT station chief in Moscow. They base the claims on information received from Russian special services.
But Bojolian, who was shown Urkan’s photograph during the pre-trial investigation, insists that he has never met him and that the Gurol he knows is a different person. He also strongly denies ever receiving orders of sensitive information about Armenia from any of his Istanbul acquaintances. “Nobody gave me such assignments, and I never passed Armenian state secrets to anyone,” he repeated on Friday.
The prosecutors maintain that Bojolian, who was born in Turkey and held a senior post in the Armenian Foreign Ministry in 1991-93, was “recruited” in 1998 by MIT agents acting under the guise of journalists visiting Armenia. They allege that he established direct communication with the MIT office in Istanbul in 2000 when he began visiting the Turkish city more often.
But Bojolian, who had to sell Turkish products in a Yerevan market in the months preceding his arrest, says that all of his trips had a commercial character, pointing to the fact that he was left without a source of stable income after losing his last government job in 1998. Shortly after that, the defendant became entangled in a web of debts and still owes several thousand dollars to a number of creditors.
The prosecutors have yet to unveil details of their case against the former official. Bojolian says that they have no hard evidence to substantiate their accusations of high treason, which still carry a death sentence in Armenia.