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Ex-PM Abrahamian Probed For Role In 2008 Crackdown


Armenia - Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian chairs a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, 16Jun2016.

Armenian law-enforcement authorities said on Thursday that they are looking into former Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s possible involvement in the breakup of opposition protests staged in Yerevan following a 2008 presidential election.

The National Security Service (NSS) announced on Wednesday the arrest of Abrahamian’s brother Henrik after raiding a former industrial plant in their village of Mkhchian earlier this week. It claimed to have found a weapons cache there.

A short official video of the raid showed three machine guns, seven Kalashnikov assault rifles and seven other firearms purportedly stashed in the property which the NSS said is effectively owned by Hovik Abrahamian.

In a separate statement, the security agency said it arrested Henrik Abrahamian and the property’s formal owner, Ambik Gevorgian, on suspicion of illegal arms possession. It said that the NSS and another law-enforcement body, the Special Investigative Service (SIS), are taking joint measures to establish the origin of those weapons. They are also trying to determine whether the weapons were used against opposition protesters on March 1-2, 2008, added the statement.

Armenia -- A screenshot of NSS video of weapons found in Mkhchian village, 8Aug2018.
Armenia -- A screenshot of NSS video of weapons found in Mkhchian village, 8Aug2018.

Eight supporters of Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition candidate in the February 2008 election, and two police servicemen were killed on that night. The SIS had for years accused the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition of organizing “mass disturbances” to seize power after the election that formalized the handover of power from outgoing President Robert Kocharian to his longtime ally, Serzh Sarkisian.

The SIS radically changed its version of the dramatic events shortly after mass protests organized by the current Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian forced Sarkisian into resignation in late April. It now says that the use of deadly force against the protesters amounted to an “overthrow of the constitutional order.”

“There is information … that on March 1 [2008] apart from the regular army and interior troops there were also other armed groups [shooting at protesters,]” the recently appointed head of the SIS, Sasun Khachatrian, told reporters on Thursday. “The investigation is now looking into that theory.”

Asked whether the investigators now suspect Hovik Abrahamian and individuals linked to him of being involved in the crackdown, Khachatrian said: “It’s a theory which is being examined by the investigation.”

The NSS director, Artur Vanetsian, made the same point. “It’s only a theory that needs to be verified,” he said, adding that forensic tests will be conducted to determine whether any gunshots were fired from the weapons found at the Mkhchian property.

Abrahamian, 60 held high-ranking state posts and developed extensive business interests during Kocharian’s and Sarkisian’s tenures. He managed Sarkisian’s 2008 and 2013 presidential election campaigns before being appointed as Armenia’s prime minister in April 2014.

Abrahamian fell out with Sarkisian a few months after being sacked by the latter in September 2016. He left Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) in January 2017 and has kept a low profile since then.

The former premier has not yet reacted to his brother’s arrest and the statements made by the SIS and NSS chiefs.

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