YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Reports from Armenia indicated that former interior minister Vano Siradeghian boarded a flight Friday evening bound for Dubai–United Arab Emirates–for "treatment" of a "health problem," only days after his prosecution was sought for consipiring to murder.
Reliable sources in political circles told RFE/RL that Siradeghian has ended up in Paris after leaving Armenia on Friday–reportedly for the United Arab Emirates. But ANM leaders continued to deny any knowledge of his whereabouts–insisting that he is ill and will return soon.
"Vano Siradeghian did have some health problems. I think he will be back in a few days," Ararat Zurabian–ANM deputy chairman–told RFE/RL. He neither confirmed nor denied reports that Siradeghian was now in Paris. "It is possible that he could travel somewhere else–and I don’t want to rule out Paris or other places," he said.
"Siradeghian didn’t go somewhere to avoid something," Zurabian said. He and other ANM leaders have insisted that Siradeghian is suffering from high blood pressure. Zurabian also denied speculations that Siradeghian struck a secret deal with the authorities which allowed him to leave the country.
"I cannot imagine how they could prevent a person with parliament immunity from traveling abroad," he said. According to Zurabian–the ANM is continuing its normal activities in the chairman’s absence and has no plans to adjourn its congress–scheduled for March 5.
Meanwhile–Albert Bazeyan–a deputy speaker of parliament who leads its biggest Yerkrapah group–refused to comment on Siradeghian’s possible motives. "I don’t know he left for good or will return. If he did leave for good–then he has lost a homeland–without which life makes no sense," he told RFE/RL.
An announcement by the former ruling party the Armenian National Movement said Saturday that Siradeghian left the country because of poor "health conditions" and will return after his "recuperation." Sources at Armenia’s Zvartnots airport told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Siradeghian boarded a plane bound for Dubai. Armenian State Television quoted unnamed sources at the airport who confirmed that Siradeghian’s name was on the list of passengers who checked in for the 7 p.m. Friday Dubai flight. Interfax news agency said he traveled to the UAE on a tourist visa.
Plotting assassinations and ordering killings was the center-piece of a presentation made by Prosecutor Genera Aghvan Hovsepian to the National Assembly last Monday. He said that Siradeghian–while serving as Interior Minister–used his office to plot the assassination of a Russian-Armenian businessman Serge Jilavian and enlisted two ministry officers to carry out the plan. Hovsepian’s detailed account of the plot–culminated in the revelation that Siradeghian also ordered the murder of the two officers–after they failed to carry out the assassination and returned to Yerevan.
Furthermore–Hovsepian told Parliament that Siradeghian also masterminded the killings of Ashtarak Governor Hovhaness Sukiassian and Armenia’s Railroad Chief Hambartsoum Ghandilian.
Parliament fell short of the majority it needed to lift Siradeghian’s parliamentary immunity.
Presidential advisor on legal affairs Paruyr Hairikian confirmed Siradeghian’s departure and said that since parliament did not lift his parliamentary immunity Tuesday–the former interior minister was free to travel.
ANM officials were reluctant to confirm Siradeghian’s departure reports prior to the Saturday announcement. ANM vice-president Andranik Hovakimian told Noyan Tapan that "those who were circulating rumors against Siradeghian succeeded in their aim of discrediting [the former leader." He added that Siradeghian was at home with a severely high blood pressure.