A lawyer for Manvel Grigorian denounced former President Robert Kocharian on Friday for saying that the retired army general currently prosecuted on corruption charges supported the Armenian opposition following the 2008 presidential election.
Kocharian accused Grigorian of trying to make the Armenian army switch its allegiance to the main opposition candidate, Levon Ter-Petrosian, in televised remarks aired one day before he was arrested on July 27.
Kocharian was charged with using the army to “overthrow the constitutional order” in the wake of the ballot.
The accusations stem from a secret directive which then Defense Minister Harutiunian issued to the army on February 23, 2008, one week before security forces broke up Ter-Petrosian’s post-election protests in Yerevan. Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) says that the still unpublicized order led to the army’s illegal involvement in political processes.
Kocharian insisted on July 26 that army units were simply put on high alert to prevent military personnel from heeding Ter-Petrosian’s calls for the military to join his opposition movement. “I just demanded that the defense minister take measures to keep the army away from political processes,” he told the Yerkir Media TV channel.
Grigorian served as a deputy defense minister at the time. He also headed the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans, an influential organization linked to the military.
Grigorian’s lawyer, Arsen Mkrtchian, hit out at Kocharian. “Such statements will not remain unanswered,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “This is not nice. We will evaluate them [in detail] a little later, if need be.”
The lawyer accused the ex-president, who served out his second and final presidential term in April 2008, of slandering his client. “It’s wrong to claim something which my client had never done,” he said.
Official results of the 2008 election gave victory to Serzh Sarkisian, then Armenia’s prime minister and a key Kocharian ally. Ter-Petrosian rejected them as fraudulent.
The opposition leader claimed to have secured the backing of Grigorian and another general and deputy defense minister, Gurgen (Gagik) Melkonian, when he began nonstop rallies in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on February 21, 2008.
“Manvel Grigorian and Gagik Melkonian are saying that they will not allow the army to meddle in politics and to be used against their people … I am confident that the entire army command will join them,” Ter-Petrosian declared on that day.
Security forces quelled the protests on March 1-2, 2008. Eight protesters and two police servicemen died as a result.
Both Grigorian and Melkonian were sacked in April 2008. The former subsequently pledged allegiance to President Sarkisian, continuing to run Yerkrapah.
Grigorian was arrested when security forces raided those properties on June 16. They found many weapons, ammunition, medication and field rations for soldiers provided by the Defense Ministry. They also discovered canned food and several vehicles donated by Armenians at one of Grigorian’s mansions. The once powerful general denies the embezzlement charges levelled against him.