Gevorg Kostanian, Armenia’s former prosecutor-general indicted recently in connection with the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan, has set conditions for his return to Armenia which have been rejected by investigators.
Kostanian, who now lives in Moscow, was charged in late November with five counts of abuse of power, forgery and cover-up of “grave crimes.” The Special Investigative Service (SIS) issued an arrest warrant for him after he ignored its demand to return to Armenia and answer questions from investigators.
Kostanian, who strongly denies the accusations, said at the time that he will turn himself in after the end of the winter exam session at Russia’s state prosecutor academy where he works as a lecturer.
But in a statement circulated on Monday, Kostanian made his return conditional on the holding of a televised “public discussion” that would involve him, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, top law-enforcement officials, legal experts and even Yerevan-based Western diplomats. At that meeting, he said, investigators would have to present “at least one piece of more or less compelling evidence” in support of their accusations. The SIS has failed to substantiate them until now, he claimed.
The SIS was quick to reject these conditions as an “excuse” for remaining on the run. It argued that Kostanian’s “unrealistic proposal” contradicts Armenian laws regulating criminal investigations and trials.
The SIS signaled its intention to prosecute Kostanian in September when it charged a former chief of the Armenian police with helping the former authorities cover up a crackdown on opposition supporters who demonstrated in Yerevan in the wake of a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. Eight protesters and two police servicemen were killed in street clashes in downtown Yerevan which broke out on March 1, 2008.
The SIS claimed that later in 2008 Kostanian and another aide to the newly elected Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian ordered senior police officers to destroy evidence of the “overthrow of the constitutional order” by Sarkisian’s predecessor Robert Kocharian.
Kocharian is currently under arrest, standing trial, along with three other former officials, on coup charges. The former president rejects them as politically motivated.
Kostanian, who served as the country’s chief prosecutor from 2013-2016, on Monday described the ongoing SIS probe as deeply flawed. He claimed that the coup charges are aimed at deflecting the public’s attention from the current authorities’ inability to identify those personally responsible for the March 2008 deaths.
Kostanian noted that law-enforcement authorities radically changed the official version of those events after the 2018 change of government in Armenia. “Tomorrow, I’m sure, it will emerge that in 2008 the constitutional order was overthrown by others,” he predicted tartly.