YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has condemned the wiretapping and posting of telephone conversations that took place between the chiefs of security and investigation agencies in late July and concerned the prosecution of ex-president Robert Kocharian and other former officials in connection with 2008 deadly post-election events.
The audio of the conversations between National Security Service (NSS) Director Artur Vanetsian and Special Investigation Service (SIS) head Sasun Khachatrian, both of whom have confirmed its autheticisty, was leaked to the media and published by several news websites on Tuesday.
Based on the contents of the recording critics have accused the Pashinian administration of reneging on its public pledge not to guide the work of the judiciary.
In the audio Vanetsian and Khachatrian discuss particular circumstances of the case against Kocharian, who is charged with overthrowing Armenia’s constitutional order during the 2008 violence in which 10 people were killed.
In particular, Vanetsian says that the judge who was supposed to decide on Kocharian’s arrest was afraid to make a decision and telephoned him to ask for directions. In the audio the NSS chief also repeatedly warned the SIS head not to arrest former deputy defense minister Yuri Khachaturov, who currently serves as secretary-general of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization. Vanetsian explained that Khachaturov’s arrest could entail “political problems.”
Reacting to the wiretapped conversations, the office of Kocharian issued a statement today, describing the case as “a classical example of a political vendetta.”
In a live Facebook broadcast later today Pashinian condemned the fact of the secrete recording and posting of an audio with a telephone conversation between two security agencies chiefs. At the same time, he put a brave face on the situation, doubting the value of the “revelation” and its implications.
Referring to his earlier public statements in which he repeatedly said that he would not use his office to influence the judiciary, the prime minister emphasized that he did not say that judges, most of whom were appointed still by the former “corrupt” system, did not continue to call and ask for guidance.
“Still at a rally in Yerevan’s Republic Square on August 17 I stated that in general, in my opinion, the March 1, 2008 case was disclosed and that murderers will be brought to justice,” he said. “I have said before that judges were calling and asking what they should do, how they should decide on one matter or another. There is no secret in it. And I have said that I refuse to give instructions to the judiciary,” Pashinian said.
The prime minister suggested that a number of former “small and large” officials, including Kocharian, ex-president Serzh Sarkisian, ex-prime minister Hovik Abrahamian, ex-Yerevan mayor Taron Markarian and others, were interested in thwarting the process of justice in Armenia. But he stressed that his government “will not yield to blackmail.”
“The case of March 1, 2008 must be disclosed, the murderers must be brought to justice, what has been plundered must be recovered,” Pashinian declared in a stern tone.
The prime minister stressed that his government will continue an uncompromising struggle against corruption and urged people to turn out in large numbers for a campaign rally of his ally, Hayk Marutian, who is running for Yerevan mayor, which was planned to be held in one of Yerevan’s neighborhoods on Tuesday night. Pashinian stressed that this way people will show their support for his government and its fight against corruption.
Later, at the rally, Pashinian described the wiretapping of the security official as “a conspiracy and crime against the statehood of Armenia.” “I have instructed the National Security Service, the police to find those who organized the conspiracy within the shortest possible period of time and hold them accountable in the strictest terms,” the Armenian premier said.
Pashinian ordered security services to start raids to “disarm oligarchs and their so-called bodyguards” who had “imported wiretapping equipment and set up their own special services within the state.”
Meanwhile, at a joint press conference with the SIS head held the same day NSS Director Vanetsian said that a criminal case was launched in connection with the fact of the wiretapping. He voiced confidence that those responsible will be held accountable.
As for the contents of the coversation, Vanetsian said they discussed legal issues connected with the cases of two senior former officials. At the same time, he stressed that the fight against corruption and crime will continue.
“Money plundered from Armenia will be recovered and the murderers will appear in court. This process is unstoppable,” the NSS chief declared.