Vano Siradeghian, chairman of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (APNM) and a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary election, returned yesterday to Armenia in order to take part in the campaign, only to be arrested on his arrival at the Yerevan airport. Siradeghian had fled abroad in January of this year after the parliament voted to lift his parliamentary immunity in order to make possible his prosecution on multiple criminal charges. Those charges stem from Siradeghian’s activities as internal affairs minister, APNM chairman and Yerevan mayor during the long period of APNM rule, when Siradeghian was one of the country’s most powerful and least accountable figures in politics and the shadow economy (see the Monitor, January 27-28, February 1).
Siradeghian’s party–now reduced to a still sizeable rump–reelected him as chairman and nominated him as a parliamentary candidate in an apparent attempt to ensure his immunity from arrest and prosecution. Siradeghian enjoys immunity until the May 30 balloting is complete and its results validated. His supporters are protesting his arrest on that legal basis. Some in the current government have tried to shield him from the criminal proceedings and allowed him to leave the country unmolested in January. However, Internal Affairs and National Security Minister Serge Sarkisian is Siradeghian’s nemesis. That ministry’s agents arrested Siradeghian yesterday and delivered him to the General Prosecutor’s Office (Noyan-Tapan, May 3).
Siradeghian, Serge Sarkisian and Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian once formed an inseparable trio whose track record includes the rigging of parliamentary and presidential elections in 1995 and 1996. Siradeghian split from the trio in 1997, and the two Sarkisians are currently going in different political directions in the current parliamentary campaign.
GEORGIA AIMS FOR JOINING NATO.