YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Authorities in Armenia have issued an arrest warrant for a U.S. citizen of Armenian descent who they claim plotted “terrorist attacks” against the South Caucasus nation’s senior state officials.
According to Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS), they have asked security services in the United States to help them prevent the crimes allegedly planned by the unnamed individual residing in America.
In a statement released on Thursday, the NSS said the individual whom it identified as “R. K.” opened in September a Facebook account to promote a radical group campaigning for a violent overthrow of Armenia’s government. It said the account user posing as “Martin Avagyan” posted messages calling for bombings, arson attacks and even assassinations of Armenian government and law-enforcement officials that would destabilize the situation in the country and thus put “illegal pressure” on its government.
The group called Fighters for Justice (MHA) has also sought to recruit through the social media platform disgruntled Armenians willing to carry out such attacks, according to the NSS.
The security agency claimed that R.K. also actually “prepared for terrorist acts” through “accomplices” in Armenia. It said it is now taking measures to identify them.
The suspect has been formally charged under corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code. A Yerevan court has allowed the NSS to arrest him or her pending investigation, said the statement.
“Given that the suspect is a U.S. citizen, resides in the U.S. and their place of residence has been established, Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General has forwarded this information to relevant U.S. bodies in order to prevent the planned crimes,” it added.
The Facebook page cited by the NSS contains numerous posts and reposts extremely critical of Armenia’s political leadership. One of them is a purported September 24 statement by Fighters for Justice (MHA) saying that the nationalist group will use “guerilla methods” to “punish the pillars of the ruling regime.” It said separately that senior figures of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia and police officers guilty of human rights abuses will be the “targets” of the campaign.
In a December 6 post, “Martin Avagyan” declared that the MHA has embarked on “the second phase of the armed struggle” launched by three dozen gunmen that seized a police station in Yerevan in July 2016. “Join the guerilla struggle, follow MHA statements and act accordingly,” it said.
The gunmen demanded that President Serzh Sarkisian free the jailed leader of their Founding Parliament opposition movement, Zhirayr Sefilian, and step down. They laid down their arms after a two-week standoff with security forces which left three police officers dead.
Later on Thursday, the Yerevan daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” identified the accused man as Robert Koorkian and posted an interview with him on its website. Koorkian did not deny opening the “Martin Avagyan” account but insisted that he never plotted any violence.
“I did not and do not have any group,” said the California resident. “What I have is thoughts which people like and which have terrified the authorities.”
“They say that they have a monopoly on beating up and torturing people, while I say no,”
Koorkian also told the paper that U.S. law-enforcement officers have already questioned him in connection with the Armenian arrest warrant. “Yes, they came and interrogated me, and I explained in detail the conditions of total dictatorship in which the people of Armenia live now,” he said, adding that the officers took no further action “for now.”