MOSCOW—There are no reasonable grounds for the arrest of Armenian businessman and philanthropist Levon Hayrapetian, said lawyer Nikolay Baghdasarian at a press conference on Friday. Baghdasarian says the Russian authorities initiated a case against the businessman on the basis of a testimony given by a life term prisoner and are trying to prove Harpatetian’s alleged connection with a crime committed in 2000-2003, which the lawyer argues is impossible.
In the meantime, Vahan Shirkhanyan, a former defense minister of Armenia, continues to insist that Hayrapetian’s was framed.
Hayrapetian, 65, was arrested by Russian Federal Security Service officials on July 15. Last Thursday, a Moscow court allowed the businessman’s two-month imprisonment while investigators conduct a probe into his alleged criminal connections and involvement in some illegal financial dealings. He was officially charged on July 24 with money laundering and embezzlement and his shares in the Russian oil company Bashneft, said to be worth $8.5 million were frozen.
Hayrapetian is considered to be one of the wealthiest Armenians in the world. He is known to have invested millions of dollars into developing Nagorno-Karabakh’s infrastructure and renovating the area’s historical-cultural monuments. His charity included a mass wedding for hundreds of Karabakh couples in 2008 and sponsorship of the construction of a military college in Martakert.
A number of high profile individuals and groups have called for Hayrapetian’s release, including renowned French Armenian singer Charles Aznavour, Czech Senator and Member of the European Parliament Jaromír Štětina, the Parliament of the Artsakh Republic, a number of former Armenian officials and military leaders, more than 600 couples who were married in a mass wedding in Artsakh with the sponsorship of Levon Hayrapetian, and many others.
Some of the businessman’s friends, such as Major-General Arkady Ter-Tadevosian, one of the Armenian commanders in the 1992-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh nicknamed Komandos, have even alleged an “Azerbaijani scheme” behind the arrest, saying that its aim is to harm Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian-Russian relations.
Ter-Tadevosian, other retired military men as well as public figures staged an action in support of Hayrapetian in Yerevan on July 22. They said they believed that Russia’s political leadership was not connected with what they considered to be a case fabricated against the Armenian businessman by Russian and Azerbaijani special services.
Nagorno-Karabakh Prime Minister Ara Harutiunian also told reporters in Stepanakert that they expect Hayrapetian to be released soon. He said that Karabakh authorities are “dealing with the case” and expressed his conviction that the businessman is not responsible for the crimes he is accused of.
Hayrapetian suffers from diabetes and cancer and recently experienced a stroke, requiring him to receive regular medical attention. He fell unconscious on Wednesday morning in his detention cell in Moscow. His lawyers and supporters have been calling on Russian authorities to transfer Hayrapetian to house arrest, where he can be under better medical care.