YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A senior aide to Armenian President Robert Kocharian was detained late Wednesday over his alleged involvement in the recent assassination of the country’s prime minister–parliament speaker and six other officials.
The office of Armenia’s prosecutor-general said in a statement on Thursday that presidential adviser Aleksan Harutiunian was taken into custody on suspicion of "prodding" five gunmen to commit the killings during a parliament session on October 27. Harutiunian has denied any involvement in the killings–and said he is ready to cooperate with state prosecutors investigating the case. He tendered his resignation on Wednesday.
Kocharian–for his part–issued a statement–saying that he does not object to criminal proceedings against his confidant and former chief of staff. Kocharian said he ordered an "objective inquiry" into the allegations which are seen as a serious embarrassment for him.
A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told reporters that Armenia’s chief military prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian will ask a court in Yerevan to turn Harutiunian’s detention into arrest pending trial. This would bring to 12 the number of persons arrested in connection with the bloody attack on the Armenian parliament.
Some political commentators have speculated that the possible prosecution of an individual close to Kocharian may have political motives. Jahangirian is thought to be closely associated with the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans – the power base of the slain Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan which has been posing a serious challenge to Kocharian since the assassinations.
Jahangirian told reporters last week that the investigators are considering "more than a dozen theories" about motives of the five gunmen that burst into the parliament chamber on October 27. The gang led by former journalist Nairi Hunanian surrendered to police 18 hours after spraying it with bullets–releasing dozens of deputies and government ministers held hostage.