By Karine Kalantarian
A former security officer charged with plotting to kill Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison by a district court in Yerevan on Tuesday.
The man, Levon Abrahamian, insisted on his innocence before the announcement of the verdict and claimed that investigators sought to persuade him to implicate the Armenian opposition in the alleged conspiracy. The bombshell allegation, which could trigger a political scandal, ensured a high profile for what was until now a low-key trial that took only five court hearings to complete.
Abrahamian said a senior prosecutor who interrogated him after his arrest on September 15 offered him a short jail sentence in return for testifying that the murder plot had been hatched by opposition leaders. He said the prosecutor, Andranik Mirzoyan, especially sought incriminating testimony against Artashes Geghamian, the outspoken leader of the opposition National Unity Party.
“He said that he would otherwise peel off my skin and persecute my family,” the defendant charged in his final trial speech, adding that the prosecutors were trying to fabricate a link with the opposition up until the beginning of November.
There was no immediate reaction to the claims from the law-enforcement agency and opposition leaders.
The prosecution demanded a seven-year jail term for Abrahamian at the previous court session last Friday, saying that he held Sarkisian responsible for his imprisonment on kidnapping charges in 1998 when he worked for the former KGB which is now called the National Security Service. The agency was headed by Sarkisian at the time.
Abrahamian, who was released from prison in 2002 under a general amnesty, allegedly planned to plant a bomb near the Defense Ministry building outside Yerevan with the help of Ara Narimanian, a former army officer whom he befriended in jail. Narimanian’s testimony is the main piece of evidence cited by the prosecutors.
Abrahamian’s defense attorney, Marina Janoyan, said it alone is not sufficient for convicting her client and demanded his acquittal. He is likely to appeal the sentence.
A figure close to President Robert Kocharian, the Armenian defense minister is seen as the country’s second most powerful man. He has not publicly commented on the case as yet.