YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A close aide to President Robert Kocharian has been cleared of charges of involvement in the October 27 attack on the Armenian parliament–an informed source said on Friday. The source told RFE/RL that military prosecutors investigating the parliament assassinations have decided to close the criminal case against Aleksan Harutiunian for lack of evidence.
Harutiunian was taken into custody last December and charged with "inciting" five gunmen to storm the parliament building. He has repeatedly dismissed the accusations ever since.
Harutiunian’s arrest fueled suspicion about Kocharian’s possible involvement in the murder of former Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and parliament speaker Karen Demirchian–the two charismatic leaders of the Unity bloc.
The presidential aide was released from pre-trial detention in early April. A Yerevan court ruled that there are no legal grounds for keeping him in jail–in a decision that angered many supporters and close associates of the slain leaders.
Harutiunian’s effective acquittal will give a further boost to Kocharian’s successful efforts to reassert his power.
A deputy director of the state-run Armenian National Television–Harutiun Harutiunian–was set free on Friday after spending five months in jail on charges of complicity in last October’s assassinations in the parliament–which his friends believe were fabricated for political purposes.
Harutiunian’s arrest in early January added to controversy surrounding the politically charged investigation into the murder of eight officials–including Armenia’s former prime minister and parliament speaker. He is the second suspect in the case to regain liberty. Two other persons accused of "helping" and "inciting" five murderers who burst into the parliament chamber on October 27 are also likely to be freed from pre-trial detention.
The TV official’s release followed a new twist in the investigation–with the leader of the gang–Nairi Hunanian–retracting his earlier testimony implicating other persons in the bloody crime. The investigators–who were previously thought to be seriously considering the theory about President Robert Kocharian’s involvement in the shootings–are now faced with the substantial strengthening of his positions in Armenia’s leadership.
Harutiunian was released after military prosecutors running the inquiry decided not to ask court to prolong his detention. "I have a lot to say–but I can’t," Harutiunian told friends and journalists as he left the former KGB detention center in downtown Yerevan. "I signed a pledge not to be absent [from the city] and not to divulge details of the investigation," he said.
According to his lawyer–Ruben Rshtuni–the charges against ANT’s deputy directory may soon be dropped altogether.
Sources in the office of chief military prosecutor told RFE/RL that the investigators are unlikely to appeal this week’s court ruling ordering the release of parliament deputy Mushegh Movsisian–who is facing similar charges. Movsisian–who also denies any involvement in the assassinations–may thus be freed in the coming days.
The sources also did not rule out the release of another suspect–pollster and former journalist Nairi Badalian.