authorities refused to disclose on Thursday the
names of six persons they say were arrested the
previous day on suspicion of involvement in last
December's assassination of Tigran Naghdalyan,
the head of Armenia's state television and radio.
The spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's office,
Gurgen Ambaryan, told RFE/RL that their identity
is being withheld "in the interests of the
investigation." Ambaryan argued that the
authorities are currently hunting for several
other suspects. He said all of the detainees will
be formally charged later in the day with planning
and carrying out the mysterious killing.
The Armenian Police announced the previous night
that among those arrested was the man who personally
gunned down Naghdalyan on December 29 with a single
shot in the head. The police said they have also
found his Russian-made TT pistol widely used in
contract killings across the former Soviet Union.
News of the arrests coincided with the publication
of first election results which showed President
Robert Kocharyan heading for a landslide victory.
It raised fears among opposition activists that
the authorities will use the unsolved case to
stifle allegations of electoral fraud and crack
down on the opposition. Some speculated that the
arrested suspects could be linked to the Hanrapetutyun
which strongly supports opposition presidential
candidate Stepan Demirchyan.
But speaking to RFE/RL, Hanrapetutyun leaders
categorically denied the speculation. "None
of the people close to me was arrested,"
said Aram Sargsyan, a former prime minister and
Kocharyan's bitter foe.
"None of our members can be involved in
Tigran Naghdalyan's murder in any way," agreed
the party's chairman, Albert Bazeyan. "I
can't understand the timing of that news. Why
did it coincide with the elections?"
Naghdalyan was a staunch supporter of Kocharyan
and some presidential loyalists implicitly blamed
the opposition for his murder. However, a criminal
inquiry launched by the authorities did not produce
any results until this week.