A pro-opposition Armenian newspaper offered on Friday to settle a libel lawsuit filed by former President Robert Kocharian’s family over reports implicating it in large-scale business activities.
In a series of articles published in September, the “Zhamanak” daily claimed that Kocharian is involved in lucrative imports of pharmaceuticals and owns a chain of drug stores through his wife Bella. Citing an unnamed source, it also alleged that Kocharian’s elder son Sedrak has purchased a diamond mine in India.
Kocharian and his family members dismissed the reports as a fraud through the ex-president’s spokesman and legal counsels. They sued the paper for defamation of character, demanding 6 million drams ($16,700) in compensatory damages.
A “Zhamanak” lawyer, Nikolay Baghdasarian, told a Yerevan court that the paper is ready to run a retraction prepared by the plaintiff. “If they present a reasonable text that doesn’t violate the rights of third parties, we will be ready to print it,” he said.
The court gave the Kocharian family 12 days to consider the settlement offer. A spokesman for the ex-president, Victor Soghomonian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the family has not yet made a decision.
The newspaper already published retractions, sent by the Kocharian family in October, along with its own “explanatory” comments attached to them. It says the family was angered by the background notes.
Baghdasarian said he therefore thinks that Kocharian is unlikely to settle the suit. “We just want to prove that they don’t want to refute anything and are pursuing other goals,” the lawyer told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Arman Babajanian, the “Zhamanak” editor who was jailed for draft evasion during Kocharian’s rule and spent more than three years in prison, earlier denounced the legal action as an “attack on free speech,” saying that the ex-president is keen to strangle his publication financially.