Of all Armenian newspapers only pro-government ones were able to cover Robert Kocharian’s visit to the central Kotayk province on Friday. “Haykakan Zhamanak” says its correspondent was barred from following presidential engagements on the grounds that there are no vacant seats in a presidential minibus carrying journalists. The paper announces tartly that it is ready to rent on its own expense another van for “improving the transportation process.”
Papers report on a statement by chief military Prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian rejecting latest attacks by opposition leaders (his erstwhile allies) over his handling of the probe of the 1999 parliament shootings. Jahangirian accuses them of conspiring to cause his resignation and heighten tension in the country. He denies claims that he implicated Kocharian in the parliament massacres during private conversations with allies of the murdered officials. Nor does Jahangirian agree with those who believe that the course of the investigation has been affected by his rapidly changing political allegiances.
But “Aravot” maintains that Jahangirian was allied with the anti-presidential camp until its defeat in the power struggle with Kocharian in May 2000. He has since been fully loyal to the president. The paper quotes the chairman of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party, Albert Bazeyan, as insisting that the military prosecutor had told him that the parliament killings had been masterminded by Kocharian and the current defense minister, Serzh Sarkisian. Bazeyan says he told Sarkisian shortly after being sacked as Yerevan mayor earlier this year: “You shouldn’t blame the guys for suspecting you and Kocharian. It is Jahangirian who instilled that in them.”
The media spotlight continues to be focused on Mushegh Saghatelian, the controversial former chief of the department of prisons at the Armenian interior ministry and a senior member of Hanrapetutyun. After prosecutors put him under investigation for the alleged manipulation of the inquiry, Saghatelian bluntly charged that Kocharian and Sarkisian were behind the parliament killings. The prosecutors allege that Saghatelian promised to pay a disguised police informant $50,000 in exchange for the latter testifying against Kocharian. The informant, identified Harutiun Grigorian, shared the same prison cell with some suspects in the case. “Hayots Ashkhar,” a pro-government daily rumored to have close links with Serzh Sarkisian, says Saghatelian and Grigorian have been brought face to face for an interrogation and publishes its full transcript. The classified material was apparently leaked to the paper by the prosecutor’s office.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that Hanrapetutyun and its two allies, the HZhK and the National Unity party, plan to hold what they call a “pan-national rally” in Yerevan on October 26, on the eve of the second anniversary of the parliament attack. Hanrapetutyun leaders say the demonstration may prove “pivotal” in their campaign against Kocharian’s regime. National Unity leader Artashes Geghamian says the opposition wants to collect 700,000 signatures in support of Kocharian’s resignation in the hope of putting pressure on the parliament and showing the international community that Kocharian is an “illegitimate president.”