YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–In a television appearance on Saturday–President Robert Kocharian announced his intention to dissolve the National Assembly if deputies reject the second petition by the prosecutor general to lift Vano Siradeghian’s parliamentary immunity and commit him for trial.
Despite the high activity and effective work of the parliament–Kocharian said that the National Assembly had no right to oppose justice.
Kocharian said that the dissolution of parliament is a great responsibility–and one must do everything to avoid it.
"One has to try to work with this parliament and seek a correct style of work–however–in the given issue the situation is completely different–and in the given case I can’t be patient. I will never have criminal forces influencing power in Armenia. We will never build a state unless we accomplish the task," said the president.
He stressed that "all these should be done within the framework of the law," and "it is much more difficult to punish by law than illegally."
Kocharian stated that the only reason for presenting the petition now is that the Prosecutor’s Office obtained enough evidence in late 1998–however–the prosecutor found it expedient to appear in Parliament after the judicial reforms completed on January 12.
"My only fault is that I displayed consistency," said Kocharian–stressing that he personally insisted on persons who committed crimes being arrested and brought to justice.
The Prosecutor General’s petition was turned down the first time because "there are factions in our parliament which are trained well for organization of such games and their attempt has been a success." Although the Prosecutor General agreed to a proposal of the Self-Determination Union faction’s leader Paruyr Hairikian to put the petition on vote–removing from it the clause calling for arrest–the "Republic" faction–according to president–pushed for the rejection of the initial–tougher version of the petition. A likelihood that the parliament will adopt a softer version was rather high–according to Kocharian.
Kocharian noted that his personal and Prosecutor General’s conviction was that the petition should have been submitted in a tougher version–to institute criminal proceedings and arrest. However–given the situation–the president considers that he will "persuade the prosecutor" to submit a petition without the clause calling for Siradeghian’s arrest. He stressed that "Vano Siradeghian is not the only one who has serious problems with the Criminal Law."
The President disagreed with the opinion of some opposition leaders that a possible dissolution of the parliament and holding of elections within a short period may help criminals and street leaders enter parliament. Yet Kocharian believes that such persons may as well win enough time in order to "better organize themselves and enter the parliament."
As to Vano Siradeghian’s departure–Kocharian said that since there is no parliament’s warrant for his arrest and trial–"he is free to go anywhere without anybody’s mediation. When we receive permission from the parliament–we’ll demonstrate interest and apply to relevant governmen’s."
The President called on all members of Parliament to demonstrate the highest possible responsibility in this matter.
Siradeghian–Armenia’s fugitive former interior minister–believes that only court can decide on the credibility of murder charges leveled against him by law-enforcement bodies–one of his close allies said on Monday.
"Mr. Siradeghian’s opinion is that state prosecutors must prove that he is guilty [of murders] in court," Andranik Hovakimian–a deputy chairman of Siradeghian’s Armenian National Movement–told RFE/RL in an interview.
The remarks are in contrast to Siradeghian’s previous refusal to go on trial on charges which he described as politically motivated. Siradeghian has welcomed the Armenian parliament’s refusal on January 26 to lift his immunity from prosecution as was requested by Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian.
Hovsepian told parliament that the ANM chairman must be arrested and put on trial for allegedly ordering murders of two police officers while in power. Siradeghian left Armenia on January 29 hours after the chief prosecutor said he will again ask parliament to allow his prosecution.
"The issue has been so politicized that I don’t imagine any other solution," Hovakimian said–speaking two days after Kocharian threatened to dissolve the legislature if it again blocks criminal proceedings against Siradeghian.
But Hovakimian declined to say if Siradeghian plans to return home soon. He said the ANM chairman will unveil his further actions in a letter to the party–"expected" shortly. Hovakimian stuck to ANM version that Siradeghian is abroad for a medical treatment and will be back once it is over.
He said he is "not sure" if Siradeghian will return before the next ANM congress gets underway on March 5. The congress is due to elect a new leadership and approve the party’s strategy for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Hovakimian said the party’s new ruling board will decide if Siradeghian should remain chairman or elect a new one.
Hovakimian said preparations for the congress topped the agenda of Sunday’s meeting of the ANM board. He said the leader of the second-largest ANM faction in parliament–Babken Ararktsian–also attended the meeting after months of boycott. Ararktsian is regarded as Siradeghian’s main potential rival for ANM leadership.