By Karine Kalantarian
A senior Armenian prosecutor said Thursday law-enforcement authorities lack evidence to prosecute Albert Bazeyan, a leading opposition figure and a former mayor of Yerevan accused by President Robert Kocharian of corruption and misrule.
Albert Bazeyan, former mayor of Yerevan and chairman of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party
Kocharian, who is facing mounting attacks from Bazeyan’s Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, cited on Wednesday official figures showing that the Yerevan municipality raised far less revenues from commercial activities under the ex-mayor than it does at present. He alleged that Bazeyan and his cronies underreported the real amount of incomes from the sale and rent of municipal land in order to pocket the difference.
But according to Gevorg Danielian, head of a department at the prosecutor-general’s office, there are “no real grounds” to level corruption charges against the opposition leader who served as Yerevan mayor from September 1999 to January 2001. Danielian told RFE/RL that state prosecutors did launch criminal proceedings against some city officials last year but they never suspected Bazeyan of any wrongdoing.
Speaking to reporters in Armenia’s second-largest city of Gyumri, Kocharian said that last year the mayor’s office reported 150 million drams ($275,000) worth of land rent from private businesses, substantially less than during the first nine months of this year. He said proceeds from the sale of municipal land were a meager five million drams. Bazeyan’s successor Robert Nazarian claims to have already secured 800 million drams.
“It would be wrong to think that people who sealed those deals were not familiar with the market. They definitely were,” Kocharian said. He went on to urge the media to investigate “activities of former government officials,” arguing that the law-enforcement officials shy away from prosecuting them for ethical considerations. He said: “They may be related to each other and don’t want to hurt their relatives, friends and former colleagues. But if those people forgot that you should remind them.”
A veteran of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh still living in a run-down Yerevan building with his family, Bazeyan has a reputation of an honest and straightforward politician. He began openly critical of the authorities after being sacked by Kocharian in January. He and former prime minister Aram Sarkisian formed Hanrapetutyun shortly afterwards.
Hanrapetutyun last month joined forces with two other major opposition groups, the People’s and National Unity parties, to launch a campaign for Kocharian’s impeachment. The trio is now seen as the main opposition force in Armenia.