YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Several prominent Armenian veterans of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh made on Wednesday an emotional appeal for the release of General Samvel Babayan–indicating that the jailed ex-commander of the Karabakh army deserves clemency even if he had indeed masterminded last year’s attempt on the life of the enclave’s president.
The veterans–among them the popular General Arkady Ter-Tadevosian–argued in a joint statement that Babayan should be set free given his role in the military victory over Azerbaijan and what they see as a strong ability to "galvanize" the nation in the event of renewed fighting.
"Without going into details of [the March 2000 armed assault on President Arkady Ghukasian’s life]–we are absolutely certain that such an act of generosity and clemency would be justified now that Armenia’s vital interests are in jeopardy," the statement said.
Its signatories–speaking at a joint news conference–also urged the Karabakh people to forgive Babayan for unspecified "inappropriate deeds" he had committed while in power. "When somebody says that Samvel Babayan isn’t guilty of anything I strongly disagree," Ter-Tadevosian told journalists.
However–he and the other veterans insisted that the recent trial–which saw Babayan and some of his close associates sentenced to 14 years in prison–was unfair. Some of them said they do not believe the official theory that the attack on Ghukasian was the work of the once powerful general. The ex-commander pleaded not guilty to the charges.