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Café Murder Probe Shrouded In Secrecy


By Karine Kalantarian

Three weeks after the murder of an Armenian activist from Georgia in a popular Yerevan café, widely blamed on President Robert Kocharian’s bodyguards, law-enforcement officials are unusually tight-lipped on their investigation into the unprecedented crime. Prosecutors in charge of the politically embarrassing case refuse to divulge details of the probe, saying only that nobody has been arrested or charged yet.

One senior prosecutor said on Wednesday that there are still “no suspects or detainees” in the case.

The prosecutor’s office launched criminal proceedings after the 43-year-old resident of Georgia’s Armenian-populated Ninotsminda district, Poghos Poghosian, was found dead in the café’s toilet on the night from September 25 to 26, minutes after Kocharian left the place. By most witness accounts, he was beaten to death by presidential bodyguards for making remarks which they found offensive of Kocharian. But it is still not clear under which articles of the Armenian Criminal Code the criminal case is being pursued.

Several of the bodyguards were suspended from duty pending the inquiry, according to the presidential administration. Kocharian told reporters earlier this month that Poghosian had apparently died as a result of a “tussle” with his security men. He expressed regret over Poghosian’s death but stopped short of criticizing the conduct of his security service, saying that the prosecutors will clear up all circumstances of the deadly incident.

Poghosian was a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party, which has vowed to ensure that his murderers are brought to justice. Leaders of the influential nationalist party, which largely backs Kocharian, have so far refrained from commenting on the course of the inquiry. But opposition parties have already accused the authorities of trying to cover up the killing.

Meanwhile, the lawyer representing interests of the victim’s family, Ruben Sahakian, told RFE/RL Wednesday that he is still awaiting results of the official medical examination of Poghosian’s body. Officials at a Yerevan mortuary who examined it on September 26 reportedly concluded that the Dashnak activist died of severe head and abdomen injuries.
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