Former Artsakh Defense Minister Denies Arms Smuggling

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YEREVAN (A.W.)— Former Artsakh Defense Minister and opposition figure Samvel Babayan denied smuggling weapons to Armenia from Georgia, his lawyer said on March 23.

Samvel Babayan (Photo: Photolure)

The National Security Service (NSS) of Armenia said that it had “credible information” that Babayan had paid two other individuals to smuggle a shoulder fired surface to air rocket system. And on March 22, the NSS claimed to have confiscated a Russian made Igla rocket along with its launcher upon Babayan’s arrest.

Babayan’s lawyer, Avetik Kalashyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Babayan has denied all the allegations. “I can’t go into details because of the confidentiality of the investigation,” Kalashyan said, who also explained that Babayan does not know the other two individuals arrested in the case.

Under Armenian law, the NSS has to charge the three suspects or release them from custody by March 25. According to Kalashyan, Babayan has not been formally charged.

Babayan, a former military commander has been very critical of Armenia’s leadership. He was thought to be very close with the Armenian opposition alliance led by former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan and former Foreign Ministers Raffi Hovannisian and Vartan Oskanian.

In a joint statement, Ohanyan, Hovannisian, and Oskanian condemned Babayan’s arrest, saying that its purpose served to weaken their alliance ahead of the upcoming elections.

“Mr Babayan has expressed no opinion on that,” said Kalashyan.

When Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Bureau member and head of the party’s political affairs Giro Manoyan was asked about Babayan’s case, he said that more facts are necessary. “If indeed there is such a crime, there should still be a trial,” Manoyan told Yerevan-based Aravot news.

On March 24, Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan,urged authorities in Yerevan to conduct a “transparent” investigation in regards to the Babayan case. Switalski also stressed the importance of “preventing violence” in Armenia, reported RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Source: Armenian Weekly
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