By Shakeh Avoyan
President Robert Kocharian suspended on Wednesday several of his bodyguards pending an investigation into allegations that they beat to death a man at the president’s favorite café in Yerevan the previous night. The 43-year-old Poghos Poghosian, a Georgian citizen of Armenian origin, was found dead at the café toilet late on Monday, minutes after Kocharian left the place.
Law-enforcement authorities initially suggested that Poghosian, who is reportedly a member of the influential Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party, died of a heart failure. The claim was rejected by Dashnaktsutyun, which has been a major ally of the head of state.
“We do not trust the preliminary conclusion, according to which Poghos Poghosian died of a heart failure,” the leader of the nationalist party’s parliamentary faction, Aghvan Vartanian, said on Wednesday. “We have reason to suspect that this was a murder.”
None of some 200 persons who are said to have been at the café on the night of the incident has so far come forward with testimony. The café personnel deny any knowledge of circumstances in which the incident took place.
But some press reports, quoting anonymous witnesses, have alleged that Poghosian was taken away and beaten up by presidential security guards after publicly insulting Kocharian. Justice Minister David Harutiunian, who was present at the popular hangout of the country’s political and intellectual elite and left it straight after Kocharian, told reporters that he “didn’t notice any tussle there.” He agreed, however, that “this was hardly an accident.”
Mindful of potentially devastating effects of the unfolding scandal, Kocharian ordered state prosecutors to step up their investigation of Poghosian’s death, according to the presidential press office.