Jailed Oppositionist Faces Another Arrest Extension

By Karine Kalantarian

Radio Libery, Czech Rep.
Aug 28 2007

The Armenian authorities have decided to keep Aleksandr Arzumanian,
a prominent opposition politician controversially charged with being
illegally financed from abroad, under arrest for two more months,
his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Hovik Arsenian told RFE/RL that he was informed about that by officers
of the National Security Service (NSS) handling the politically charged
case. He said they will ask a court in Yerevan to extend Arzumanian’s
pre-trial detention, which is due to expire on September 7, by another
two months.

The court is expected to grant the request, having twice allowed the
NSS to keep him in its basement jail pending investigation into what
the Armenian successor to the Soviet KGB views as money laundering.

Arzumanian, who had served as Armenia’s foreign minister from
1996-1998, was arrested on May 7 on charges of illegally receiving a
large amount of money from Levon Markos, a fugitive Russian businessman
of Armenian descent. His arrest came two days after NSS officers
searched his Yerevan apartment and confiscated $55,400 worth of cash
kept there.

They also confiscated a comparable amount of cash from the Yerevan
apartment of Vahan Shirkhanian, another prominent oppositionist. But
unlike Arzumanian, Shirkhanian was not accused of attempting to
"legalize revenues obtained by criminal means."

The two men co-head the Civil Resistance Movement, a small opposition
group campaigning for regime change in the country. They both deny
being financed by Markos, dismissing the case as politically motivated.

According to Arsenian, the NSS will tell the court that it needs
time to investigate claims by a Moscow-based friend of Arzumanian,
Aleksandr Aghazarian, that he is the one who sent the money to the
former minister. He said the ex-KGB has asked Russian prosecutors
to certify the veracity of the claims and look into the legality
of Aghazarian’s revenues. The lawyer dismissed the justification
as "illegal and pathetic," saying that it violates his client’s
constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence.

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