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Armenian-American Businessman Freed After Arrest

U.S. businessman of Armenian origin Nareg Hartounian

U.S. businessman of Armenian origin Nareg Hartounian

YEREVAN -- A U.S. businessman of Armenian descent and two of his Armenian employees have been released from jail in Yerevan three days after being controversially arrested on tax-evasion charges, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Nareg Hartounian, Ani Mnatsakanian and Artur Galstian, two senior executives of Hartounian's food-importing company, GH Storage Enterprise, were freed on December 13 but were not cleared of the charges.

"The Prosecutor-General's Office has said that that there is no need for their further detention. It issued no written documents," Ani Torosian, one of the men's lawyers, told RFE/RL.

Hartounian, Mnatsakanian, and Galstian were charged on December 10 with "malevolently" evading 111 million drams ($290,000) in taxes since 2009. They denied the accusations through their lawyers.

A lawyer for the men linked the arrests with a civil lawsuit filed by Hartounian against the State Revenue Committee earlier this month.

One of their attorneys also claimed on December 12 that Hartounian was jailed because his extended family refused to sell a 34 percent share in another Yerevan company to a group of government-linked individuals.

The arrests provoked protests from opposition figures in Yerevan and Armenians among the diaspora abroad. More than a thousand people signed a petition on the Internet demanding Hartounian's immediate release.

Torosian suggested that the Internet campaign was instrumental in the unexpected release of the three suspects.