By Atom Markarian
Armenian prosecutors investigating a fatal incident in a popular Yerevan café early on September 26 have concluded that the man found dead there died in a brawl with one of President Robert Kocharian’s bodyguards and was not deliberately killed by them.
Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian on Thursday confirmed the official theory that the death of Poghos Poghosian, a 43-year-old resident of Georgia’s Armenian-populated Ninotsminda district, was not the result of a one-sided brutal beating. That conclusion is challenged by some of the victim’s relatives, who have accused the authorities of a cover-up.
Tamazian, however, insisted that what happened was a “scuffle and mutual punches,” implying that Poghosian also resorted to violence shortly after making “obscene remarks” about Kocharian who was in the café that night. He endorsed the investigators’ assertion that a drunken Poghosian, confronted by a presidential bodyguard, fell down and hit the floor of the café toilet “with the back side of his head” before dying.
The investigation concluded that the security guard, Aghamal Harutiunian, displayed “criminal negligence” as he “failed to foresee the possibility of such consequences.” Harutiunian, nicknamed “Kuku,” was formally charged on November 28 with involuntary manslaughter -- a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.
Tamazian said the inquiry has thus been completed and the case, a big embarrassment for Kocharian, will be sent to court on Friday at the latest. “I am satisfied with the conducted investigation. It has been complete and objective,” he told reporters.
The findings of the probe were on Wednesday strongly condemned by the victim’s brother. Andranik Poghosian told the Yerevan daily “Aravot” that the criminal proceedings have been “a sham, a mockery of our judicial system and a slap in our people’s face.”
“It turns out that my brother just fell down in the toilet, hit the floor with his head and died,” he said.
Andranik Poghosian claimed his brother, who reportedly weighed around 100 kilograms, could not have been knocked out by one Harutiunian alone was in fact assaulted by several Kocharian bodyguards. “There were many of them, at least six or seven of them,” he said, pointing to testimony given by a friend of his brother’s, Stepan Nalbandian, who witnessed the incident.
Tamazian countered that the prosecutors have questioned more than 50 witnesses and only Nalbandian testified that Poghosian was beaten to death by several persons. But neither he nor other prosecutors have so far specified precisely what Poghosian said to Kocharian as the latter left the café with Charles Aznavour, the famous French singer of Armenian descent. According to some press reports, Poghosian, who was a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), uttered “Hello, Rob.”
Poghosian’s brother urged Dashnaktsutyun, an influential nationalist party largely supportive of Kocharian, to intervene in the proceedings. “At stake is also Dashnaktsutyun’s honor,” he said in the “Aravot” interview.
Leaders of the party have so far been evasive in their assessment of the café murder probe. The spokesman for Dashnaktsutyun’s governing Bureau, Giro Manoyan, told RFE/RL earlier this month that “whether or not the charges [against the bodyguard] are wrong will become clear in the court.”