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Pro-Kocharian TV Station Owner Arrested


Armenia -- Armen Tavadian, the owner of Fifth Channel TV, May 14, 2019.

The owner of a TV channel critical of the Armenian government was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of seeking false testimony that would benefit the country’s jailed former President Robert Kocharian.

The Special Investigative Service (SIS) said it detained Armen Tavadian as part of an inquiry into police allegations that Kocharian supporters are trying to bribe victims and witnesses of the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.

The Armenian police claimed last week that one such supporter, Varuzhan Mkrtchian, offered a man injured in clashes with security forces to retract his testimony, which could be used against the ex-president, in return for cash. The police released a video of their secretly filmed conversation which they said corroborates the allegation.

Mkrtchian insisted on Friday that he on the contrary urged the man to stick to his pre-trial testimony and repeat it in the court. He said the man himself visited him several months ago to complain of pressure from SIS investigators.

Mkrtchian was detained the following day. The SIS said on Tuesday that he was set free after being formally charged with trying to get the unidentified witness to commit perjury.

The law-enforcement body indicated that the same accusation may be leveled against Tavadian, who owns the pro-Kocharian Fifth Channel. Tavadian already spent several days in custody in May for allegedly assaulting a Kocharian detractor at the start of the ex-president’s trial.

The police video was circulated the day before Armenia’s Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s refusal to release Kocharian from jail pending the outcome of the ongoing trial.

The ex-president’s spokesman, Victor Soghomonian, and lawyers said the video was aimed at pressuring the Court of Appeals. They denied any connection between Kocharian and Mkrtchian. The latter likewise said that he never discussed or coordinated his actions with Kocharian’s family, lawyers or close associates.

Kocharian, who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, stands accused of accepting hefty bribes and illegally using army units against opposition supporters who protested in Yerevan in the wake of a disputed presidential election. He rejects the accusations as politically motivated.

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