STEPANAKERT (Noyan Tapan)–Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Prosecutor General Mavr Ghoukassian gave an interview to Noyan Tapan in connection with the publications of some Armenian mass media regarding the recent detention of the former deputy commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Defense Army–President of the "Tsitsernak" cjsc. Armen Abgarian. He gave the following explanation:
Abgarian was detained in Stepanakert on February 2 on suspicion of tax dodging and huge smuggling. Charges on relevant counts of the Karabakh Criminal Law were brought against Abgarian after the 72-hour term of detention–stipulated by law–expired. Taking into account the degree of the crime he had committed–he was placed under arrest following a decision of the Prosecutor General. No political motives should be looked for in this case as it is of a strictly criminal nature. The criminal case was initiated as far back as November 1999 basing on the materials presented by the State Tax Department. At present the case is under preliminary investigation and not only in connection with the deal involving an alleged import of a large batch of meat to Karabakh that prevented over half a million dollars from being transferred to the state budget.
On the very first day of his detention Abgarian submitted a written application to the Prosecutor General announcing a hunger strike in connection with "his unreasonable detention" and demanding to be provided with a lawyer. Meanwhile–according to the Prosecutor General–the so-called hunger strike consisted only in refusing to eat the food given to the detainee in the remand prison–but he did take food brought to him by relatives. Abgarian met with his relatives more frequently than other detainees–but now the number of such meetings will be minimized as stipulated by law. Abgarian is kept in the same conditions as other detainees awaiting trial. Since the very moment of being detained Abgarian has availed himself of the services of a proficient lawyer.
"Thus–any publications alleging unreasonably and ungrounded charges and violations of Abgarian’s rights may be regarded as misinformation and barefaced speculation," the Prosecutor General said.
Ghoukassian rejected as slander a series of articles appearing in the "Tasnerord Nahang" newspaper (Stepanakert) and "Iravunk" weekly (Yerevan). In particular–Prime Minister Anushavan Danielian is claimed to have used abusive expressions during his meeting with settlers. In this connection the Prosecutor’s Office instituted a criminal case on count 131–part 2 on the facts of libelous allegations about officials contained in some articles of the "Tasnerord Nahang" newspaper. The case is current under preliminary investigation. The author of the publications Vaghram Aghajanian was invited to the Prosecutor’s Office where he presented an audio tape with the words of a number of settlers recorded on it as a material evidence. The authenticity of the tape still has to be established as the journalist was not personally present at the meeting.