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Former Armenian Police Chief Charged Over Threats To RFE/RL Reporters


Armenia - Armenian Police Chief Vladimir Gasparian meets with police officers in Kotayk region,23Feb,2017

Former Armenian Police Chief Vladimir Gasparian has been indicted for threatening two RFE/RL Armenian Service journalists and obstructing their work on a report about government plans to dismantle private houses illegally constructed near Lake Sevan.

Gasparian on August 8 drove his vehicle in the direction of the reporters, almost running over them, after seeing that they were filming his luxury house located in the lakeside area. He threatened them with violence and, using offensive language, forced them to erase their footage.

RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported the incident to the police, which Gasparian headed for seven years before being dismissed after the change of the country’s government in May 2018.

"We demand that police investigate the incident, and that Mr. Gasparian be held accountable for endangering journalists who were simply doing their jobs," RFE/RL's acting President Daisy Sindelar said in a statement.

Armenia’s Investigative Committee said on Thursday that Gasparian has been formally charged with “obstruction of legitimate professional activities of journalists,” a crime punishable by fines and up to year one of corrective labor. In a statement, the law-enforcement agency said the former police chief has signed a written pledge not to leave the country pending investigation.

Gasparian denied any wrongdoing following the incident. He did not immediately react to the indictment.

Armenia - A view of Lake Sevan, July 24, 2018.
Armenia - A view of Lake Sevan, July 24, 2018.

The Investigative Committee announced on September 2 that it has launched a separate inquiry into the legality of Gasparian’s villa and other lakeside properties making up a vast compound. It said some of the properties may have been built and officially registered in violation of Armenian laws strictly regulating construction in the environmentally sensitive area.

Newly appointed Environment Minister Romanos Petrosian said last month that authorities will soon start dismantling illegal constructions near Lake Sevan. Several other former high-ranking officials also reportedly own houses located there.

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