An Armenian law-enforcement agency brought on Monday criminal charges against former Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian stemming from security forces’ post-election crackdown on opposition protesters in Yerevan in 2008.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) declined to specify what Kostanian is specifically accused of or whether it has also decided to arrest him. SIS spokeswoman Marina Ohanjanian said only that he was given 48 hours to return to Armenia and appear before investigators.
The SIS signaled its intention to prosecute Kostanian two months ago when it charged a former chief of the Armenian police, Alik Sargsian, in connection with the 2008 violence.
Sargsian was named to run the national police service shortly after former President Robert Kocharian handed over power to Serzh Sarkisian, his preferred successor and the official winner of a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. The latter took office in April 2008 just over a month after violent street clashes in Yerevan which left eight protesters and two police personnel dead.
In a September 25 statement, the SIS claimed that later in 2008 Kostanian and another aide to the new Armenian president ordered senior police officers, including Alik Sargsian, to destroy evidence of the “overthrow of the constitutional order” by Kocharian.
The statement said the officers forged and backdated documents justifying the use of force against supporters of opposition presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian, who staged daily demonstrations against alleged vote rigging. It said they also helped to cover up the Armenian army’s alleged involvement in the crackdown.
Sargsian, who headed the police until 2011, flatly denied the accusations of abuse of power, forgery and cover-up leveled against him. Kostanian likewise disputed the SIS claims.
The 42-year-old served as the country’s chief prosecutor from 2013-2016. He was elected to Armenia’s former parliament in 2017 on the then ruling Republican Party’s ticket. He moved to Moscow earlier this year and presently works there as a lecturer at a Russian prosecutor academy.
Kostanian, who was already summoned to the SIS for questioning in September, deplored the “artificial” hastiness of his indictment when he reacted to it later on Monday. Speaking to 168.am, he said he has repeatedly assured the investigators that he will return to Armenia after the end of the winter exam session at the Moscow academy.
“I know that if I come [to Armenia] now I will at least not be allowed to go back,” he told the publication from Moscow. “That is why I will come after finishing the current course.”
The SIS statement in September came two days after Alik Sargsian’s predecessor as police chief, Hayk Harutiunian, was found shot to death in his home. Law-enforcement authorities suggested that he committed suicide.
Harutiunian was repeatedly interrogated by investigators as a witness in the case. The SIS claimed that he too had signed “official documents containing false information and records” about the 2008 crackdown.
According to some media reports, moments before his death Harutiunian complained that he is being pressured by the authorities to give false incriminating testimony against Kocharian. Law-enforcement officials denied those reports.
Kocharian is currently under arrest, standing trial, along with three other former officials, on coup charges. The former president rejects them as politically motivated.