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Former Armenian Official Arrested For Leaking Presidential Order

Armored vehicles patrol the streets of Yerevan on March 2, 2008.
Armored vehicles patrol the streets of Yerevan on March 2, 2008.
YEREVAN -- The Armenian Defense Ministry says a former senior ministry official has been arrested on suspicion of disclosing a secret government order that made military involvement possible in the suppression of the 2008 opposition protests in Yerevan, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The ministry said on February 12 that Armen Sarkisian, the former head of the ministry's construction department, was arrested in late December about two weeks after the pro-opposition daily "Haykakan zhamanak" published a photocopy of the order signed February 23, 2008, by then-Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian.

The written directive was issued immediately after outgoing President Robert Kocharian ordered top security and military officials to thwart what he called attempts by his predecessor, opposition leader and presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian, to "seize power by illegal means."

Kocharian also referred in the order to nonstop demonstrations staged by Ter-Petrossian following the hotly disputed February 19, 2008, presidential election.

On March 1-2, 2008, 10 people were killed when opposition demonstrations against the election results were broken up.

Ter-Petrossian's Armenian National Congress (HAK) denounced the leaked document as illegal, saying that the so-called "administration of the garrison commander" effectively assumed the powers of the army's General Staff in violation of the Armenian Constitution.

Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Seyran Shahsuvarian told RFE/RL that Armen Sarkisian was charged with disclosing "state secrets." He confirmed that the accusation stems from the revelation of the controversial order.

Shahsuvarian declined to give further details, saying that the investigation is being conducted by the National Security Service, which has thus far refused to comment on the case.

Sarkisian's two lawyers, meanwhile, told RFE/RL that their client will plead not guilty to what they described as a "fabricated" charge.