The official owner of a TV channel critical of the Armenian government was remanded in custody on Thursday after being charged with seeking false testimony in favor of the jailed former President Robert Kocharian.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) detained Armen Tavadian on Tuesday 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 in return for cash.
Mkrtchian insisted that he on the contrary urged the man to repeat his pre-trial testimony in the court. He was detained at the weekend but freed on Tuesday despite being formally charged with trying to get the unidentified witness to commit perjury.
The SIS brought the same accusation against Tavadian but decided that he should remain behind bars. A court in Yerevan allowed the law-enforcement body to hold him in detention pending investigation.
Tavadian’s lawyer, Hovannes Khudoyan, said he will appeal against the decision because he believes it is baseless. Khudoyan also denied any connection between Mkrtchian and his client.
Mkrtchian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service late last week that said that he never discussed or coordinated his actions with Kocharian’s family, lawyers or close associates.
Tavadian is a staunch supporter of Kocharian who officially owns the Fifth Channel sympathetic to the former president. His arrest has been condemned as politically motivated by Kocharian’s spokesman and political allies as well as other critics of the Armenian government. Some of them have also accused the government of seeking to silence an opposition media outlet.
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 strongly denies the accusations.