By Atom Markarian
Chief Military Prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian, still reeling from a bitter controversy over his handling of the parliament shootings probe, faced another embarrassment on Friday when Armenia’s law-enforcement authorities ordered an inquiry into accusations of serious human rights abuses committed by his agency.
Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian announced that a special commission of senior prosecutors will investigate the allegations by the presidential commission on human rights about widespread mistreatment of arrested servicemen in military police custody.
Chief Military Prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian
“A seven-member commission has been set up to check instances cited by the human rights commission as well as other petitions alleging abuses in the office of military prosecutor,” Tamazian told reporters.
The commission chaired by a close ally of President Robert Kocharian urged the head of state on Thursday to dismiss and launch criminal proceedings against Jahangirian for what one of its members called a “terribly brutal treatment” of suspects. The extraordinary move was construed by some observers as an indication of Jahangirian’s imminent ouster.
The military prosecutor, who early last year seemed close to implicating Kocharian in the October 1999 killings in the parliament, was a key figure in a powerful alliance of ruling factions that challenged the Armenian president after the bloodbath. Kocharian’s victory in the seven-month power struggle was largely made possible by Jahangirian’s failure to prove a link between Kocharian and the parliament gunmen.
The controversial prosecutor, accused by presidential loyalists of forcibly extracting false testimony from the attack suspects, has since avoided inroads on Kocharian’s power, incurring the ire of his erstwhile political allies. They believe that Jahangirian has botched the inquiry because of his failure to identify “organizers” of the parliament massacre. But he denies the charges, saying that the probe is still underway.
The presidential commission led by Soviet-era dissident Paruyr Hayrikian claims that detention centers of Armenian military police exist in breach of the existing legislation, allowing military prosecutors to keep criminal suspects from the armed forces under arrest without a court permission. Jahangirian was not immediately available for comment.
Tamazian emphasized that the special inquiry does not amount to the opening of a criminal case against Jahangirian and rejected calls for the military prosecutor’s immediate suspension. “We have to conduct a thorough investigation and draw conclusions only based on its results,” he said.