Zhirayr Sefilian, an arrested opposition figure facing coup charges, strongly denied through a lawyer on Tuesday that he plotted an armed revolt against the Armenian government.
Sefilian was taken into custody on Monday for allegedly acquiring large quantities of weapons and cobbling together an attack squad with the aim of seizing government buildings and other important facilities in Yerevan.
According to his lawyer, Ara Zakarian, the case against the outspoken oppositionist is based on testimony given by one of six other men which law-enforcement authorities say have also been arrested as part of the coup inquiry. Zakarian said his client was brought face to face with that suspect and questioned hours after his arrest.
“Sefilian declared that [the incriminating testimony] is completely untrue and ludicrous and is part of yet another government plan to prosecute him for his political views,” Zakarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“We believe that that person is executing an order issued by the Investigative Committee,” said the lawyer.
The law-enforcement agency has not yet identified any of the suspects other than Sefilian, raising more questions about the credibility of its allegations.
Varuzhan Avetisian, a close Sefilian associate, said none of the six reportedly arrested men is thought to be affiliated with the New Armenia Public Salvation Front, a radical opposition alliance of which Sefilian is a leader. Avetisian insisted that the high-profile case is politically motivated.
The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party aligned in New Armenia similarly condemned Sefilian’s arrest as “political persecution.” “We consider unacceptable the current authorities’ unchanged practice of isolating, bullying or morally degrading politicians, freedom fighters and individuals respected and trusted by the public with fabricated accusations,” it said in a statement.
Like Avetisian, Zharangutyun claimed that Sefilian is prosecuted because of his plans to campaign against any Armenian territorial concessions to Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian and Sefilian were main speakers at a series of demonstrations which New Armenia held in Yerevan last December in an attempt to topple President Serzh Sarkisian. The protests never attracted large crowds.