Vano Siradeghyan

Fugitive Armenian Statesman Vano Siradeghyan Dies

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Vano Siradeghyan, a once powerful Armenian politician and former government member, died at the age of 74 on October 15, more than two decades after fleeing the country to avoid prosecution on murder charges denied by him.

Siradeghyan’s death was announced by his wife and son in a short statement issued over the weekend. They did not specify its cause, reveal his last place of residence or say whether they want to bury him in Armenia.

A former novelist, Siradeghyan was one of the leaders of a popular movement for Armenia’s unification with Nagorno-Karabakh that erupted in 1988 and toppled the then Soviet republic’s last Communist government in 1990. He became one of the newly independent country’s most powerful men when serving as interior minister in the administration of its first President Levon Ter-Petrosian from 1992-1996.

Both during and after his tenure, Ter-Petrosian’s political opponents and some media outlets accused Siradeghyan of abusing his powers to enrich himself and his family. He denied the accusations.

One year after Ter-Petrosian resigned in 1998, Siradeghyan was charged with ordering a string of contract killings. State prosecutors claimed in particular that he set up in the early 1990s a death squad to eliminate and terrorize opponents of the Ter-Petrosian administration.

In July 2000, two members of the alleged gang were sentenced to death while seven others got jail terms ranging from 4 to 11 years. One month later, eleven former officers of Armenian interior troops were given lengthy sentences after a Yerevan court convicted them of murdering two men in 1995.

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The former interior minister strongly denied ordering those killings. He and his supporters insisted that the charges were fabricated as part of then President Robert Kocharyan’s efforts to neutralize his political foes.

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Vano Siradeghyan

Siradeghyan fled Armenia in April 2000 ahead of the Armenian parliament’s decision to allow law-enforcement authorities to arrest him pending the outcome of his trial. Although the authorities for years claimed to be trying to track him down and have him extradited, his whereabouts always remained unknown to the public.

Throughout his exile Siradeghyan never went on record to comment on political developments in the country. He continued to enjoy the backing of Ter-Petrosian and members of the ex-president’s entourage.

In a weekend statement, Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) party, paid tribute to Siradeghyan, saying that as interior minister he managed to quickly “root out crime” and maintain “internal stability and law and order” and thus contributed to the Armenian victory in the 1991-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The HAK also deplored the “trumped-up” charges brought against him during Kocharyan’s rule and urged the current Armenian authorities to allow Siradeghyan’s family to bury him at the National Pantheon in Yerevan.

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