By Anush Dashtents
Vazgen Sarkisian, Armenia’s assassinated former prime minister, was on Monday implicated in a 1995 collective beating of some two dozen senior police officers suspected of plotting a coup d’etat.
Sarkisian, who was shot dead in the October 1999 attack on the parliament, was posthumously placed under investigation last February into his alleged role in the assault. Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian said he ordered the inquiry in order to clear the ex-premier’s name. However, his supporters believe the authorities want to achieve the opposite.
Two of the former police officers rounded up and brought to an interior ministry compound in Yerevan in June 1995 told a Yerevan court on Monday that Sarkisian was among senior security officials who attacked and tortured them. They spoke during a cross-examination in the trial of Mushegh Saghatelian, the former head of Armenia’s prison system and a close associate of the late premier.
One of the attack victims, retired Lieutenant-Colonel Georgi Grigorian, said he was first slapped by Sarkisian, a government minister in charge of defense and security at the time, and then punched by the latter’s now defunct bodyguard, Movses Geghangulian. “So were you going to stage a coup?” he quoted Sarkisian as saying. Grigorian said he lost his consciousness after other top officials joined the beating.
Another former officer, retired police Colonel Yuri Mkhitarian, also spoke of Sarkisian’s participation in the assault, but avoided giving details in his testimony. “I don't feel at ease because three of the assailants are not alive now,” Mkhitarian said.
The police officers had been dismissed from the interior ministry shortly before their de facto arrest. They were all released after spending several days in jail and were never formally charged with plotting to overthrow the regime of then president Levon Ter-Petrosian.
The two witnesses said although they saw Saghatelian among top security officials accompanying the late Sarkisian, they can not state for certain that he, too, was involved in their harsh mistreatment.
Saghatelian is facing a long list of accusations, most of which are related to mistreatment of detainees.