Citing a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable, an Armenian law-enforcement agency has charged Armen Gevorgian, a former top aide to former President Robert Kocharian, with obstructing justice in the wake of Armenia’s disputed 2008 presidential election.
Gevorgian was the chief of the presidential staff during the February 2008 ballot that sparked deadly street violence in Yerevan. He went on to serve Armenia’s deputy prime minister and hold other senior positions in the administration of Kocharian’s successor, Serzh Sarkisian.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) avoided arresting Gevorgian when it reported its decision to prosecute him late on Friday. The SIS chief, Sasun Khachatrian, said that the former official stands accused of pressuring a member of the Armenia’s Constitutional Court to uphold the official election results that gave victory to Sarkisian.
The judge, Valeri Poghosian, met with officials from the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan on March 6, 2008, two days before the court rejected an appeal lodged by Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition presidential candidate. The then U.S. charge d’affaires in Yerevan, Joseph Pennington, gave a detailed account of the “secret” meeting in a diplomatic cable to Washington what was subsequently publicized by WikiLeaks.
Pennington cited Poghosian as alleging that Kocharian has “fixed” the upcoming Constitutional Court ruling against Ter-Petrosian. “Poghosian said he was contacted by phone and summoned to the Presidency by someone speaking on behalf of the president's chief of staff,” the senior diplomat wrote. The judge, he said, also claimed that the presidential administration “threatened to fire his brother who works there if he could not convince Poghosian to answer the summoning.”
According to Khachatrian, the SIS has looked into the classified message and found it to be “substantiated.” “It has been corroborated that Armen Gevorgian tried, together with another official, to exert pressure on Valeri Poghosian,” the SIS chief told Armenian Public Television.
However, Poghosian, who retired in 2014, did not stand by the 2008 claims attributed to him when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Monday. He said he did not allege pressure from Kocharian’s staff when he was questioned by SIS investigators recently.
“I did not say such a thing. I told them some facts which they portray as pressure,” said the former judge who did not attend the Constitutional Court hearings on Ter-Petrosian’s appeal. He declined to reveal those “facts.”
Asked whether he or his brother did face pressure from the outgoing Armenian president in March 2008, Poghosian said: “I did not give such testimony.” He insisted in that regard that he has never met with Gevorgian.
Poghosian also complained: “Did the SIS think about my security before publicizing my name? Am I a tool but not a human being for them?”
Poghosian was an associate of Ter-Petrosian when the latter became Armenia’s first president in 1991. He served as newly independent Armenia’s minister of interior and national security before being appointed in 1996 as a member of the newly established Constitutional Court.
It is not clear whether Gevorgian, 45, will plead guilty to the accusation levelled against him. The former vice-premier has made no public statements yet.
The obstruction of justice case is part of the SIS’s broader renewed investigation into the violent break-up on March 1-2, 2008 of nonstop anti-government demonstrations staged by the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition demanding a rerun of the presidential ballot. Eight protesters and two police servicemen were killed as a result.
Kocharian was arrested last month on charges of “overthrowing the constitutional order” at the time. He denies the charges as politically motivated.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian is a former Ter-Petrosian ally who played a key role in the 2008 post-election protests. During Sarkisian’s rule he spent nearly two years in prison for organizing “mass disturbances.” Pashinian named Khachatrian as head of the SIS and told the law-enforcement body to solve the ten killings shortly after coming to power in a wave of mass protests in May.