By Karine Kalantarian
The man who was found dead in the lavatory of President Robert Kocharian’s favorite café last September had been beaten up badly, a Yerevan court was told on Wednesday.
Poghos Poghosian, allegedly beaten to death by presidential bodyguards, sustained severe injuries, according to forensic experts that examined his body.
The results of the examination seemed to contradict prosecutors’ claim that the 43-year-old resident of Georgia’s Armenian-populated Javakhetia region died accidentally in a fight with one of Kocharian’s bodyguards, Aghamal Harutiunian.
Their disclosure at Harutiunian’s ongoing trial came as about two dozen political and civic groups operating in Javakhetia accused Armenian law-enforcement agencies of hiding the truth about the crime.
Testifying in a Yerevan district court, two officials from the Armenian health ministry’s main forensic laboratory said they found numerous blood-stained bruises on Poghosian’s face, hands and legs. They also confirmed prosecutors’ conclusion that he died after falling down and hitting the toilet floor with the back side of his head.
But the severity of the wounds sustained by Poghosian suggests that he was assaulted by several persons as is claimed by two witnesses that sat with him at the same table on the night from September 24 to 25. Only one person, Harutiunian, has been prosecuted so far.
The bodyguard has pleaded not guilty to the charge of involuntary manslaughter which carries up to three years in prison. Harutiunian told the court on Monday that he “gently pushed away” Poghosian to defend himself against the latter’s blows. He claimed that Poghosian was engaged in a scuffle with several unknown “young men” shortly before asking him “to have a word” in the café toilet.
By most witness accounts the incident took place 10 to 15 minutes after Kocharian left the Aragast café, accompanied by his security men. Poghosian is said to have uttered “Hello Rob” as the president walked past his table.
Meanwhile, the official inquiry into the Aragast murder was on Wednesday denounced by 18 ethnic Armenian organizations operating in Javakhetia.
“Contrary to public expectations, the investigative bodies have completely distorted facts and individuals connected with the case in their findings submitted to the court,” they said in a joint written appeal to Kocharian. “Their case is baseless and fabricated. ‘Criminal accusations’ have been brought against only one member of the large group of culprits.”
The signatories -- among them the nationalist Javakhk movement and the local branch of the Georgian Communist Party -- called on Kocharian to “contribute to the finding of the truth.”