The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said on Friday that it is cooperating with Armenian law-enforcement authorities in their criminal proceedings against a U.S. national accused of calling for and plotting terrorist attacks in Armenia.
“We are working with Armenian law-enforcers on that case. In the interests of the investigation we cannot give further details at this point,” the embassy told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said on Thursday that the U.S. citizen of Armenian descent opened recently a Facebook account to promote a radical group campaigning for a violent overthrow of the Armenian government. It said the account user posing as “Martin Avagyan” posted messages calling for violent attacks on government and law-enforcement officials. The group called Fighters for Justice (MHA) has also sought to recruit disgruntled Armenians willing to carry out such attacks, according to the NSS.
The security agency claimed that the Armenian American, whom it identified as R.K., also “prepared for terrorist acts” through “accomplices” in Armenia. It said it has asked U.S. law-enforcement bodies for assistance in the probe “in order to prevent the planned crimes.”
The Yerevan newspaper “Haykakan Zhamanak” revealed afterwards that the suspect facing arrest in Armenia is Robert Koorkian, a resident of California. Koorkian told the paper that he has already been questioned by U.S. law-enforcement officers.
Koorkian did not deny opening the “Martin Avagyan” account but insisted that he never plotted any violence.
The Facebook page contains statements attributed to the Fighters for Justice (MHA) group. One of them says that the nationalist group will use “guerilla methods” to “punish the pillars of the ruling regime.” Another Facebook status calls for the murder of a police officer who allegedly ill-treated one of the opposition activists currently standing trial in connection with their July 2016 attack on a police base in Yerevan.
“Martin Avagyan” claimed on December 6 that MHA has embarked on “the second phase of the armed struggle” launched by the jailed gunmen.
Vartan Harutiunian, a human rights activist, questioned the credibility of the NSS allegations, saying that the case may well turn out to be a “bubble.” He argued that individuals plotting terrorist acts would hardly use social media to announce their plans.
Harutiunian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that a growing number of Armenians express “extreme” views on the Internet because they think it is impossible to change the government by peaceful means. He also said that the authorities have failed to learn lessons from the July 2016 standoff in Yerevan and its underlying causes.
Incidentally, “the fight against terrorism” was on the agenda of a meeting of President Serzh Sarkisian’s National Security Council held on Friday. The presidential press service reported that the council approved a new plan of actions designed to prevent such violence in view of the “high degree of terror threats in the region” and the changing nature of contemporary terrorism. It gave no details of that plan.