Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 95

Armenia’s former Education Minister Ashot Bleian was arrested on May 14 and placed in pretrial investigative detention on charges of embezzlement. The charges are mostly backdated to Bleian’s ministerial tenure in 1994-95, but also refer to his subsequent tenure as headmaster of one of Yerevan’s largest and most prestigious high schools. The charges carry a term of up to 10 years in prison.

As leader of the small Nor Ughi [New Road] Party, Bleian has been critical of President Robert Kocharian and the military and security agencies, particularly during the current electoral campaign. Bleian had been a minor candidate in the 1998 presidential election. Earlier he had been among the founders of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (APNM), but turned critical of the APNM’s authoritarianism well before that party’s fall from power. At the height of the Karabakh war, Bleian traveled at his own initiative to Baku in an attempt to start negotiations and stop the hostilities. While in government, he called for expunging nationalist rhetoric from school textbooks. Bleian’s detractors in the political arena and in the military sometimes use the term “Bleianism” as a byword for what they deem national defeatism (Noyan-Tapan, May 14; Azg, Respublika Armeniya, May 15).

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