By Emil DanielyanArmenian state prosecutors demanded on Tuesday a 11-year prison sentence for Murad Bojolian, saying that they have produced sufficient evidence showing that the former government official and scholar had spied for Turkey.
Bojolian’s lawyer, meanwhile, again dismissed the charges as “unfounded” and said that Armenian special services handled the case with gross violations of the due process of law. Hovannes Arsenian said he will finally prove his client’s innocence in his concluding speech during the next court session scheduled for Thursday.
The judge presiding over the trial, Mnatsakan Martirosian, will hand down the verdict shortly afterwards. He was urged by the prosecutors to convict Bojolian of high treason, a crime which they said can “shatter the foundations of the state.”
Aram Amirzadian, one of the prosecutors, said in his final speech that the Turkish-born Armenian national’s guilt has been proven by his initial confession, several incriminating documents and information received from Russian security agencies. Amirzadian said the defendant’s pre-trial testimony, in which he had admitted to the espionage charges, alone is enough to give him a lengthy prison sentence.
Bojolian retracted the testimony last July and now insists on his innocence, saying that he made the “false confession” because he feared for his life and the security of his wife and three children. Throughout the court hearings he has strongly denied ever collaborating with the Turkish intelligence service MIT, as is claimed by the prosecution.
However, Amirzadian argued that the initial testimony, a very detailed account of Bojolian’s contacts with alleged MIT agents during his frequent trips to Istanbul, is “logical” and credible. He said Bojolian had revealed to the investigators important details which he could not have made up.
But according to lawyer Arsenian, the purported confession is full of contradictions which Armenian Ministry of National Security failed to investigate.
The prosecution also argues that the Armenian law-enforcement authorities were told by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the former KGB, that several Turks who maintained contacts with Bojolian in Istanbul and Yerevan are intelligence agents posing as journalists or businessmen.
Among them is Remzi Ozkan, a senior correspondent for the Turkish Anadolu news agency who is still based in Moscow. Bojolian was hired by Ozkan in July 1998 to work as a as a freelance contributor reporting on Armenian newspaper articles about Turkey. He says that he did not know about Ozkan’s alleged MIT connections and stopped cooperating with Anadolu in February 1999 over pay disagreements.
Two other Turks described by FSB as MIT agents are said to have recruited Bojolian during his trip to Istanbul in summer 2000. In his pre-trial confession, the defendant identified them as Nusret and Tolunay. Bojolian claimed that he agreed to work for MIT because he was “desperate” to repay his debts and support his unemployed family. He also referred to their immediate boss, a certain Gurol. That, according to FSB, is the codename of Aytac Urkan, the Turkish military attaché and the MIT station chief in Moscow.
The prosecutors allege that Bojolian provided Turkish intelligence with a broad range of information about Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Amirzadian admitted though that there is no evidence to assert that Bojolian reported any state secrets. “The bottom line is that he gathered information for a foreign intelligence service,” he said.
Arsenian countered that the information received from the Russians is unofficial and can not be accepted as evidence by the court. He again said that the arrest of his client last January was “illegal” because the National Security Ministry had no concrete facts to substantiate its long-running suspicions. Bojolian’s home telephone had been tapped since the late 1990s, long before the launch of the criminal proceedings. This, according to the defense attorney, runs counter to the Armenian Code of Criminal Justice.