The brother of an outspoken Armenian opposition parliamentarian was arrested Wednesday on charges of bribery which he and the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party say are politically motivated.
Tigran Postanjian, who works for the local government of Yerevan’s Arabkir district, was taken into custody after his second interrogation by the National Security Service (NSS).
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said on Friday that Postanjian was paid 100,000 drams ($275) last September to turn a blind eye to illegal construction carried out by an unnamed local resident. It is still not clear why the prosecutors waited for six months to open the criminal case.
The suspect was quick to deny the accusations and link them with the political activities of his prominent sister, Zaruhi Postanjian. The latter has likewise accused the Armenian authorities of fabricating them to intimidate and silence her.
“This is a coordinated attack against me, Zharangutyun and the whole defiant public,” Postanjian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Monday. Zharangutyun, of which she is a senior member, likewise alleged political motives behind the case.
The fact that the criminal investigation is conducted by the NSS is quite unusual given the modest amount of the bribe allegedly paid to Postanjian’s brother. The former Armenian branch of the Soviet KGB normally deals with far more serious criminal cases.
Postanjian’s lawyer, Hayk Alumian, claimed that Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian personally asked the NSS to take up the case. He said NSS investigators said his client was placed under pre-trial arrest lest he go into hiding or exert “illegal influence” on witnesses.
“There are absolutely no grounds for such an assumption,” Alumian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Zaruhi Postanjian, 39, rose to prominence as a trial attorney before being elected to the Armenian parliament on the Zharangutyun ticket in 2007. She has been a bitter critic of the Armenian authorities’ human rights record.