A prosecutor said Friday that an Armenian Catholic priest had financed members of a militant group who wanted to seize power before being arrested in November 2015.
Father Anton Totonjian was arrested shortly after Armenian security forces attacked the group’s hiding place in Yerevan. They found large quantities of weapons and explosives there and arrested fifteen people led by Artur Vartanian.
Vartanian lived in Spain before returning to Armenia in April 2015 and set up his group called Hayots Vahan Gund. The National Security Service (SNS) says Vartanian and his associates have drawn up detailed plans to seize the presidential administration, government, parliament, Constitutional Court and state television buildings in Yerevan.
Totonjian, who headed a Catholic radio station in Gumri, was released in January 2016, but was later tried with Vartanian and another 18 men in December. “Everything is made,” said the 71-year-old priest to reporters at the beginning of the trial.
Speaking to a Yerevan district court, one of the prosecutors said that Totonjian and Vartanian had met several times in April and May 2015 to discuss the situation in Armenia. He said they agreed that the current leadership of Armenia should be overthrown by force.
“Having an experience of armed actions and military skills, Artur Vartanian has pledged to create, in order to seize power, a criminal association whose full funding would be provided by Anton Dikran Totonjian,” the prosecutor accused. He added that the priest had disbursed $ 60,000 to Vartanian in several installments.
Vartanian denies the charges against him. “Artur Vartanian not only rejects the acts attributed to him, but also considers that these accusations are fabricated,” his lawyer Levon Baghdasarian said on Friday.
Baghdasarian did not deny that Vartanian set up the group and acquired firearms and explosives. But he insisted that his client never intended to seize government buildings.
Claire © armenews.com