A senior official from Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) has been charged in connection with the disclosure by a Yerevan newspaper of Minister for Local Government Suren Papikian’s criminal record.
The “Hraparak” daily reported last month that Papikian was sentenced to 2 years and 3 months in prison in 2006 for stabbing his commander during compulsory military service which he apparently performed at a Russian base in Armenia. It said that he was released from prison a year later.
The paper critical of the Armenian government accused Papikian of hiding this fact in his official biography.
While acknowledging the criminal conviction, Papikian condemned the “Hraparak” article as an intrusion into his personal life.
The minister, who is one of the most influential members of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s cabinet, urged law-enforcement authorities to find out who publicized “the secret information relating to my private life.” The Special Investigative Service (SIS) launched a criminal investigation in response to the appeal.
The SIS announced on Monday that it has charged a senior NSS officer with abusing his powers to “illegally collect and disseminate” the information which it said constitutes a personal secret. It did not name the officer, saying only that he heads a “relevant” NSS division and has been suspended pending investigation. It also said that he is not held in pre-trial detention.
According to an SIS statement, the suspect instructed one of his subordinates to scrutinize Papikian’s past to find out whether the minister has a criminal record. The unnamed subordinate obtained such information from the Armenian police, said the statement.
The SIS claimed that the indicted officer publicized it for the sake of his “personal self-interest.” It did not elaborate.
“Hraparak” earlier denounced Papikian’s angry reaction to its article. The paper insisted that the revelation of Papikian’s criminal record was not an invasion of privacy and that it should not have been kept confidential in the first place. Some press freedom groups have backed this stance.
Papikian, 33, is a senior member of the ruling Civil Contract party who actively participated in the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” that brought Pashinian to power. He taught history at a private high school in Yerevan prior to the revolution.