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Armenia's 2008 Crackdown Probe Hit By Wiretapping Scandal

Artur Vanetsian (left) and Sasun Khachatrian confirmed the authenticity of the recording at a joint news conference in Yerevan.

Armenian authorities say they have opened a criminal case into the wiretapping of telephone conversations between the chiefs of the National Security Service and the Special Investigation Service in which they discussed an ongoing investigation into the 2008 postelection violence.

National Security Service Director Artur Vanetsian said on September 11 that the Prosecutor-General's Office will investigate the wiretapping, after audio of conversations between himself and Special Investigation Service head Sasun Khachatrian that took place in late July was leaked to the media and published by several news websites earlier in the day.

Both Vanetsian and Khachatrian confirmed the authenticity of the recording at a joint news conference in Yerevan.

In the secretly recorded audio, the two officials discuss the case against former President Robert Kocharian, who has been charged over his alleged involvement in the 2008 postelection violence in Yerevan in which 10 people were killed, including two police officers.

Kocharian has denied the charges and accused the country's new leadership of pursuing a "vendetta" against him.

Responding to accusations that his government had reneged on its pledge not to interfere in the work of the judiciary, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian condemned the wiretapping and the leak, and reiterated that he was not giving instructions to the judiciary.

"The case of March 1, 2008 must be disclosed, the murderers must be brought to justice," Pashinian said in a live Facebook broadcast.

Pashinian became prime minister after leading a wave of antigovernment protests in May.

At a rally in Yerevan later in the day, he described the wiretapping as a "conspiracy and crime against Armenia's statehood."

The prime minister also said he had instructed law enforcement agencies to "find those who organized the conspiracy within the shortest possible period of time and hold them accountable in the strictest terms."

At the September 11 news conference, Khachatrian disclosed some details of the investigation into the 2008 violence, saying that investigators had proof that special army units "fully participated" in the crackdown.

Armenian leaders at the time "turned soldiers into mercenaries and used them against the people," he added.