Armenia’s National Security Service director, Arthur Vanetsyan on Tuesday told reporters that an investigation into the wiretapping of a telephone conversation he had with Armenia’s Special Investigative Service chief has revealed that the wiretap was ordered in Armenia by “a well-known person.” He did not reveal the identity of the person.
On September 11, a recording of a conversation Vanetsyan had with his SIS counterpart, Sasun Khachatryan, was leaked on social media and went viral. The conversation, the authenticity of which was confirmed by both me, centered on the arrests and prosecution of individuals tied to the March 1, 2008 post-election crackdown, during which eight civilians and two police officers were killed after a standoff with security officials. The two were discussing the arrest and the possibility of remand for Yuri Khachaturov, the current secretary general of the CSTO who was Armenia’s deputy defense minister during the March 1 events. Khachaturov was charged with breaching Armenia’s constitutional order as was former president Robert Kocharian, who was remanded after official charges were filed. A higher court later reversed the remand decision. Khachaturov was set free on bail and was allowed to return to Moscow to continue his duties as CSTO secretary-general.
“The National Security Service had nothing to do with the wiretapping,” Vanetsyan told reporters on Tuesday, dismissing rumors that it might had been done from within the system.
Vanetsyan explained that his agency’s investigation has concluded that one person, who is widely known in Armenia, ordered the wiretap. The NSS chief added that he did not know the person personally, adding that substantiating and documenting this person’s participation in the wiretapping was a very difficult process.
On the day that the contents of the conversation were leaked, both Vanetsyan and Khachatryan attested to its authenticity. During Tuesday’s press briefing Vanetsyan explained that on the day the telephone conversation took place he and Khachatryan spoke on the phone on 10 different occasions and revealed that the recording that was leaked was edited from the various conversation and falsely presented to make it look like one conversation.
Vanetsyan said that at the time of the wiretapping he was located in a roaming zone – which facilitated the process of wiretapping his phone.
“When someone is under roaming, operators use different internet and telephone lines to provide cheaper communication. I was under roaming, and the internet line was not secure, meaning [the call] wasn’t encrypted,” explained Vanetsyan.
A contentious part of the recording was a discussion where Vanetsyan allegedly tells Khachatryan that he had spoken to the presiding judge on the case and that whether he agreed or not Kocharian was to have been arrested, making it seem like the former president’s arrest was preordained.
Vanetsyan explained to reporters during Tuesday’s briefing that he had never spoke to the judge—or any judge—and claimed that in the actual conversation he meant the if the leader of the investigation (a person named Hrach) substantiated the charges against Kocharian they he should have to be arrested.
“I didn’t speak to the judge. I gave my phone to the investigators and told them to analyze it. I didn’t speak to the judge, I don’t speak to judges at all,” Vanetsyan told reporters.
Vanetsyan claimed that the main motive for the wiretapping was to force his resignation.