By Karine Kalantarian
A senior police officer acknowledged on Tuesday that Gagik Jahangirian put up no resistance during his arrest, contradicting the accusation leveled against the former deputy prosecutor-general who broke ranks last year to openly support the Armenian opposition.
Jahangirian was sacked and arrested the day after delivering a fiery speech at an opposition rally in which he accused the Armenian authorities of rigging the February 19 presidential election and described opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian as its rightful winner.
Jahangirian was ambushed and taken away by a special police unit along with his disabled brother Vartan and two other men as they left Yerevan in a car. Police said at the time that the four men were armed and planned to “destabilize the situation in the capital.” Vartan Jahangirian was shot and wounded during the operation and is now being tried separately.
Gagik Jahangirian was initially accused of illegal arms possession, a charge that was subsequently dropped and changed to an attempt to “usurp state power.” He was cleared of the coup charge as well in August only to be accused under another article of the Armenian Criminal Code dealing with assaults on “representatives of the state authority.” His high-profile trial started on September 1.
Karen Babakekhian, deputy chief of the feared Sixth Directorate of the Armenian who personally ordered the Jahangirians’ arrest, was questioned for about two hours during a court hearing on Tuesday. “I was not present at the scene of the incident, but from what I was told, Mr. Jahangirian did not resist,” Babakekhian stated, adding that the latter willingly handed his officially registered pistol to police officers.
When asked by a defense lawyer why the once powerful ex-prosecutor was taken into custody, Babakekhian said, “Mr. Jahangirian was held after his brother put up resistance and he stepped in, yelling at officers and saying that his brother has back problems. And that’s how a scuffle began.”
Jahangirian’s brother suffers from a serious spinal disorder and can walk only on crutches. Both he and the ex-prosecutor claim to have been tortured at the headquarters’ of Babakekhian’s police unit. The police deny ill-treating them.
The police official’s testimony dealt a further blow to prosecutors’ assurances that the case is not politically motivated. Jahangirian seized on it to again declare that his arrest was illegal and demand that the judge order his release. “The police actions were illegal right from the beginning,” he said.
“Babakekhian admitted today that he was not guided by any law,” the defendant’s lawyer, Lusine Sahakian, told RFE/RL. “They just wanted to detain Gagik Jahangirian and they did it.”
(Photolur photo: Jahangirian pictured in the courtroom.)