By Emil Danielyan
A car explosion in Yerevan last week may have been an attempt to assassinate a former bodyguard of President Robert Kocharian convicted of involuntary manslaughter, “Aravot” daily reported on Saturday, citing unnamed law-enforcement sources.
The newspaper said investigators are considering a theory that the August 20 blast that destroyed Aghamal Harutiunian’s empty car was a revenge attack by relatives or sympathizers of a man whom the bodyguard claims to have accidentally killed in a popular Yerevan café in September 2001.
Poghos Poghosian, an ethnic Armenian from Georgia, was found dead in the restroom of the Aragast café shortly after Kocharian left it with his entourage. According to some eyewitnesses accounts, Poghosian was attacked and beaten up by several men who looked like security officials after greeting the president in a way he found too familiar.
But only one of the presidential guards, Harutiunian nicknamed “Kuku,” was tried for the crime. A Yerevan court gave him a one-year suspended jail sentence in February, endorsing prosecutors’ claims that Poghosian died accidentally in a one-on-one fistfight with Harutiunian.
However, the victim’s family and human rights groups believe that the official inquiry into the café murder was a gross cover-up, with the New York-based Human Rights Watch accusing Kocharian of reneging on his pledge to bring to justice all perpetrators of the crime.
The blast occurred in the courtyard of Harutiunian’s apartment block where the car was parked. The German-made Mercedes, manufactured in the 1980s, was completely destroyed. “Aravot” said some investigators suggest that the explosive device went off earlier than planned, when the car was empty, and that Harutiunian was supposed to be its main target.
The opposition-linked paper said the investigators have found fragments of the bomb’s detonator but no pieces of shrapnel that left the car riddled with numerous holes. “Even individuals well familiar with weapons are wondering what kind of an explosive mechanism it was and why it left no shrapnel,” it wrote.
The late Poghosian’s brother, Andranik, says that he was not in the city during the explosion and that police questioned his neighbors shortly afterwards. He has also ruled out the possibility of any of his relatives trying to avenge his brother’s death by attacking Harutiunian.
An employee of the Armenian ministry of national security, Harutiunian was fired from the presidential security service after his conviction. His current occupation is unknown.
Harutiunian reportedly bought the ill-fated care during his trial, leading many to suspect him of knowing in advance that he will not go to jail.