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Kocharian To Fire Sentenced Guard


By Emil Danielyan

President Robert Kocharian will dismiss one of his bodyguards convicted last week of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a cafe patron, sources said on Monday.

Aghamal Harutiunian, 36, was one of several presidential bodyguards suspended from duty after an Armenian man from Georgia was found dead in the restroom of Kocharian's favorite Yerevan nightspot early on September 25. A court in the Armenian capital handed down a two-year suspended prison sentence to Harutiunian on Thursday, endorsing prosecutors' claim that he accidentally killed the 43-year-old Poghos Poghosian.

The bodyguard pleaded not guilty to the charge throughout his 40-day trial, saying that he himself was assaulted by Poghosian and only gave the victim a "gentle shove" in self-defense.

"His service [in the presidential guard] will be terminated after the verdict takes effect," a source in Kocharian's administration told RFE/RL, citing an Armenian law that bans convicts from working in national security agencies.

Kocharian's personal security service is part of the Ninth Department of the Armenian ministry of national security. Harutiunian was the deputy chief of a division inside the department as of last week, and it is not clear if he was suspended from that post as well. A ministry spokesman would not say whether he will lose the job.

Harutiunian, meanwhile, was on Monday seen chatting with several police officers just outside the presidential palace in Yerevan.

The court also obligated him to serve 12 months of probation during which he will have to regularly report to police. But the ruling will not formally come into force before it is upheld by the higher Review Court.

Poghosian's family and relatives have already said they will appeal it, rejecting the punishment set by the court of first instance as too soft. They also say that the state prosecutors failed to uncover all circumstances of the cafe death during the pre-trial inquiry.

According to some eyewitnesses, Poghosian was attacked and beaten to death by several men who looked like security agents. The incident took place shortly after Kocharian left the cafe with Charles Aznavour, the famous French crooner of Armenian origin. The president has yet not publicly commented on the sentencing of his bodyguard.
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