The lawmaker, Taguhi Tovmasian, said on March 16 that Interpol refused to start an international search for Gevork Kostanian because it found the case against him to be an instance of political persecution. She made the statement based on a document that she said had become available to her.
“To put it simply, the international criminal police, Interpol, believe that Armenia’s Prosecutor’s Office and Special Investigative Service have fabricated an essentially unfounded case and that in this case they cannot restrict anyone’s movement or put anyone on the wanted list,” Tovmasian said during a news briefing at the National Assembly.
Tovmasian, who is one of several lawmakers who quit the ruling My Step faction last year after Armenians suffered a defeat in the war against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, said this was unprecedented in the history of independent Armenia.
Kostanian, who is charged with several crimes related to the 2008 postelection crackdown on the opposition, including official forgery, abetting someone in concealment of a particularly heavy crime and in falsification of evidence, has been wanted by Armenian authorities since late 2019.
The former prosecutor-general, who served as a lawmaker in 2017-2018, denies the charges and says they are politically motivated.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service from Moscow where he has stayed since leaving Armenia, Kostanian said he learned about Interpol’s document only after its publication by the Armenian lawmaker.
“When the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation refused to put me on the wanted list, I told about this and published a document stating that Russian law-enforcement agencies refused to prosecute me because they believe that my prosecution is illegal and has no grounds or evidence and is of a political nature. So, nothing prevented me from publishing this document, if I had it,” Kostanian said.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office said that Kostanian is still on the wanted list. In a statement it accused Tovmasian of distorting facts to try to make a scandal out of it.
According to Armenian prosecutors, Interpol does not study circumstances of cases and factual data and has no authority to assess the validity or legitimacy of charges. So, Interpol “is not a body that qualifies a charge as justified or unfounded, politically or otherwise motivated,” the Prosecutor-General’s Office concluded.
It also said Interpol often takes a neutral position in relation to charges of malfeasance against former or current officials or prosecution of persons as a result of conflicts between states.
“There are many cases when cooperation in the case of a high-ranking or politically active person or individual crimes committed on ethnic grounds has been limited on the basis of a document from a relevant department of Interpol,” the Prosecutor-General’s Office said.