YEREVAN — Former Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian has been charged with “exceeding official authorities” and “Illegally participating in entrepreneurial activity” as part of a criminal probe into a claim by an entrepreneur that his business was snatched from him a decade ago.
The Special Investigation Service told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Saturday that Abrahamian was not taken into custody after pledging not to leave the country pending investigation.
The Investigation Committee of Armenia earlier said that Abrahamian is suspected of abusing his powers in 2008 by allegedly forcing a businessman to give up a majority stake in a mining company that later went to other people, including the former prime minister’s brother Henrikh Abrahamian.
Witnesses in the case, according to the report, among the people involved in the alleged abuse also named former police chief and current lawmaker Alik Sargsian, who is linked with the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia.
Today’s official information makes no mention of Abrahamian’s connection to the 2008 post-election events.
On August 9, law-enforcement authorities launched a probe into Abrahamian’s possible involvement in the breakup of opposition protests staged in Yerevan following a disputed presidential election a decade ago.
The National Security Service then arrested Abrahamian’s brother Henrik after raiding a former industrial plant effectively owned by Hovik Abrahamian. It claimed to have found a weapons cache there and said the arsenal would be verified on its possible use against opposition protesters on March 1-2, 2008.
In a separate statement, the security agency said it arrested Henrik Abrahamian and the property’s formal owner, Ambik Gevorgian, on suspicion of illegal arms possession.
In a Facebook post on September 8 the former prime minister denounced his prosecution describing it as a manhunt. Abrahamian said that no illegal items were found by law-enforcement bodies during searches at the legal address where he is registered and in the home where he actually lives. He claimed he did not have anything to do with the property where security officials found the weapons. “First, they publicly tried to connect that place with me and then the weapons found there with the March 1-2, 2008 events. It is clear that I was the target of this series of distortions,” he claimed.
Abrahamian linked the charges brought against him with his September 4 interview to a local news website in which, he said, he criticized the actions of the authorities. “Immediately after that they pressed ungrounded charges against me… with the purpose of silencing any dissidence,” he claimed.
“The manhunt and pressure on free speech and dissidence that are being carried out by the Armenian authorities will not lead to any good place,” Abrahamian warned.
Abrahamian’s case is the latest in a series of prosecutions against former government officials launched by Armenian law-enforcement authorities in the wake of the April-May change of power in the country.