Several community leaders in Lori Marz have sent letters to President Serzh Sargsyan, asking that he pardon Serop Der-Boghossian who was found guilty in 2011 of “having sex with minors against their will” and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
Those sending the pleas for mercy are Tchotchkan Mayor Samvel Gigolyan, Karkop Mayor Zhora Aybekyan, Neghots Mayor Spartak Begdjanyan and Shamlough Mayor Lendroush Bezhanyan.
Hetq contacted the mayors to verify the news. Tchotchkan Mayor Samvel Gigolyan confirmed the news by telephone. “I wrote the president under a month ago. Before his arrest, Serop gave me 6 million AMD to repair a village water main. In my request I wrote that he had committed a serious crime and had been punished but that I was asking that he be pardoned,” said Gigolyan.
We should note that the Akhtala Enrichment Plant’s Tchotchkan tailing dam is a serious threat to the health of the villagers governed by Gigolyan and its surrounding environment. Gigolyan demanded that we only publish his name if we included the name of the 5th community mayor that also sent a pardon request. Gigolyan, however, refused to identify that person.
Mayor Bezhanyan was irritated by our questions. “It was Madeline Tashjian who telephoned me about writing a pardon request and I refused. How is it possible that I would do such a stupid thing?”
And there was a tinge of unease in his answers given us by Neghots Mayor Begdjanyan. “Let me tell you that it was a misunderstanding on our part. To be honest, I did it on the spur of the moment. There’s talk that he’s seriously ill and it would be nice if he didn’t pass away in a jail.”
When we asked Begdjanyan who had approached him to request a pardon from the president, he said it was a misunderstanding and that he simply signed a blank mayoral office form.
Begdjanyan refused to show us a copy of the letter and claimed that he didn’t even remember the date. “I didn’t even know that others had written as well. It was an oversight. I heard rumors that the man was sick I just wanted for Serop to die outside of jail.”
Mayor Begdjanyan believes that Der-Boghossian never molested any children in Neghots. I gave him a list of names of some of his victims in Neghots.
“It’s true that he permanently resided in Neghots but was registered in Akhtala,” Begdjanyan said about one of the minors. “I’ve also had my regrets.”
When we got in touch with Karkop Mayor Aybekyan, he wanted to know where we had gotten the news of the letter. “I haven’t written any such thing. It’s shameful. I’m a person who fights against such garbage.”
In Akhtala in the past month, there have been campaigns to collect signatures calling for Der-Boghossian to be pardoned.
Akhtala Mayor Haykaz Khachikyan said that Akhtala Plant security staff had been going around asking residents to sign a petition and when residents refused the employees told villagers that the plant was scheduled to be shut down for environmental infractions and that the petition was addressed to President Sargsyan, asking that he keep the plant open. At first, residents were signing a blank paper. When resident balked, they brought around a text asking the president to keep the place open.
Khachikyan says he doesn’t know how many signed the petition. He said that Akhtala Plant security staff, including the son of the brother of Mayor Begdjanyan, forced plant employees to sign the petition.
It’s not hard to imagine that Madeline Tashjian ordered the security staff to round up the signatures.
We asked senior prosecutor Aram Amizadyan, who served as state’s prosecutor in the Der-Boghossian paedophilia case, to give his take on what the impact of the pardon petitions might be.
“I believe an atmosphere is thus being created that certain people are concerned about Serop. The Presidential Pardon’s Committee could cut his sentence by a year, cut it in half or pardon him completely. But I believe there can be no pardon for such a man,” Amizadyan responded.
Photo: Madeline Tashjian and Serop Der-Boghossian