It proceeds from the reply that RFE/RL’s Armenian Service got from the Armenian Prosecutor-General’s Office that Yerevan received a rejection from Paris regarding its bid for Khachatrian’s extradition about a month ago.
The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs sent a reply through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, saying that five months ago judicial bodies in France expressed a negative opinion on Armenia’s bid for Khachatrian’s extradition and that the decision was based on the European Convention on Extradition, according to which “Khachatrian’s extradition may have extremely serious consequences for him.”
The Armenian Prosecutor-General’s Office did not elaborate as to what serious consequences the French judicial bodies referred to in their conclusion.
Hayk Martirosian, an expert on legal issues of Transparency International, believes that the rejection may also have a political context.
“They see risks. They are not sure that the process is purely legal and see a political context as well. This is also due to what maybe other states see as a lack of comprehensive, proportionate and equal policies by Armenia’s current authorities in relation to both former and current officials, with their entire attention focused on former officials. But it does not mean that former officials did not commit offenses,” Martirosian said.
The 1957 Convention cited by Paris, in particular, says that “extradition shall not be granted if the offense in respect of which it is requested is regarded by the requested Party as a political offense or as an offense connected with a political offense.” It adds that “the same rule shall apply if the requested Party has substantial grounds for believing that a request for extradition for an ordinary criminal offence has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of his race, religion, nationality or political opinion, or that that person’s position may be prejudiced for any of these reasons.”
Khachatrian served as Syunik’s governor from 2004 to 2016 with a one-year interval in 2013-2014 when he was forced to resign under public pressure after his son shot dead a person in front of their house in Goris.
The influential member of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia who was embroiled in multiple scandalous criminal stories has been wanted by Armenia’s authorities since 2019, a year after the “Velvet Revolution” that toppled the country’s former leader.
In Armenia, Khachatrian is accused of official forgery, embezzlement and abuse of authority. Still in 2020, talking to the Armenian news website Tert.am, Khachatrian insisted that he had not committed any offenses and was undergoing treatment abroad, after which he would return to Armenia.
Meanwhile, Armenia has also asked Germany to extradite Armenian businessman Samvel Mayrapetian, who had also links with the former authorities and has been wanted by Yerevan on graft and money-laundering charges since 2020.
Prosecutors in Yerevan said the matter has not yet reached the German judicial authorities. According to the Armenian General-Prosecutor’s Office, the Interpol National Central Bureau in Germany have not yet proceeded with the probe into the case of the businessman who has had close ties with Armenia’s former President Robert Kocharian. Armenian prosecutors did not specify the reasons for the purported delay.
Mayrapetian is accused in Armenia of helping Kocharian pay a $3 million bribe as well as of money laundering. Mayrapetian was released from custody on a bail of 30 million drams (over $75,000) in late 2018. A month later he went to Germany allegedly for treatment and has not returned to Armenia to this day. The businessman denies the charges brought against him.