By Karine Kalantarian
Armenian state prosecutors have ordered an inquiry into long-running allegations that some suspects in the case of the 1999 parliament shootings were tortured during their pre-trial investigation, it emerged on Wednesday.
Photo: Gagik Jahangirian, chief military prosecutor and head of the parliament attack inquiry
Informed sources revealed to RFE/RL that the office of Armenia’s prosecutor-general has launched criminal proceedings against several members of an investigating team led by Chief Military Prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian. Their names were not disclosed.
The torture inquiry is another severe blow to the credibility of Jahangirian, who has been widely accused of mishandling the politically explosive case and violating the due process of law. Jahangirian has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Nairi Hunanian, the man who led the bloody assault on the parliament, claims that the investigators subjected him to physical and psychological pressure to implicate President Robert Kocharian in the crime. Hunanian has said at his ongoing trial that he was coerced into giving false testimony against several individuals close to Kocharian. They were subsequently cleared of the charges of aiding the parliament gunmen led by Hunanian.
One of the former suspects, Harutiun Harutiunian, lodged a formal complaint with Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian in December, alleging that he was badly mistreated in custody. Jahangirian reacted angrily to the move at the time.
The controversial prosecutor faced on Wednesday similar torture allegations by Derenik Bejanian, another jailed gunmen cross-examined at the trial.
The news of the criminal proceedings against investigators came one week before the start of the trial of Mushegh Saghatelian, former head of Armenia’s prison system and a bitter opponent of Kocharian. Saghatelian is facing a long list of criminal charges. One of them stems from his alleged pressure on parliament attack detainees.
Shortly before his arrest last December, Saghatelian openly accused Kocharian of masterminding the parliament killings which left then prime minister Vazgen Sarkisian, parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and six other officials dead. Saghatelian and Jahangirian were part of a powerful government faction that challenged the president in the wake of the massacre.
Jahangirian was later unable to prove any link between the assailants and Kocharian, incurring the ire of friends and relatives of the assassinated officials. Most local observers believe that he is also distrusted by the head of state.