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Armenian Investigators Deny Giving BBC Information on ‘March 1’ Case


The logo of the Special Investigation Service

Armenia’s Special Investigation Service (SIS) provided no information to the BBC on the case concerning the 2008 post-election violence, the agency told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Thursday.

On August 7, the BBC Russian Service ran a story citing documents of the investigation that it said it had got “exclusive access” to. The story revealed the identity of a Nagorno-Karabakh general who, according to Armenian investigators, led the operation on the suppression of post-election demonstrations in Armenia on March 1, 2008, and alleged that his 20-member group that had expressed readiness to “shoot at people” was housed in the basement of the presidential administration and was several times visited by then outgoing President Robert Kocharian and his future successor Serzh Sarkisian.

The story elicited a wide response in Armenia, with critics alleging a possible premeditated leak from Armenian authorities. Other observers questioned the timing of the report coinciding with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s visit to Nagorno-Karabakh where he sought to promote the message of national unity.

The lawyers of former president Kocharian, who is currently in detention on charges of overthrowing the constitutional order by illegally involving the military in quelling the 2008 demonstrations, denied that materials of the case against their client contained “a single circumstance that would corroborate” the assumptions made in the BBC story.

The SIS today confirmed that on July 4 the BBC sent an inquiry seeking clarifications on the ‘March 1’ case. “But on July 9, the SIS told them that no information on their questions could be provided in the interest of the investigation,” the SIS stressed.

Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Wednesday, the author of the BBC story, Grigor Atanesian, stressed that they would not publish the information if they had any doubts about the veracity or the origin of the document. He, however, refused to disclose the source of information.

Ten people were killed and dozens were injured as Armenian authorities used force against opposition protesters challenging the official results of a disputed 2008 presidential election.

Dozens of opposition figures, including current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, were tried and convicted on charges stemming from their alleged roles in the “mass disturbances”.

Investigators reopened the case and dramatically changed the official version of events shortly after last year’s “velvet revolution” which brought Pashinian to power. They indicted former president Kocharian and three retired army generals with illegally using the Armenian armed forces against the protesters and thus overthrowing the constitutional order in February-March 2008. All four men deny the accusations.

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