By Emil Danielyan
A deputy head of the Armenian government’s tax collection agency who reportedly assaulted a senior police officer to avenge the alleged mistreatment of his nephew in custody was relieved of his duties on Monday.
The government’s press office cited no motives for the decision made by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian.
According to local press reports, the sacked official, Manvel Yeganian, visited and beat up the police chief of the southern Vayots Dzor region, Mikael Sardarian, late last month with the help of another police officer and his brother. The latter’s son was allegedly arrested and mistreated, together with his fiancée, by the Vayots Dzor police several days before that, after quarrelling with Sardarian in the resort town of Jermuk.
The incident led to Sardarian’s sacking by Armenia’s top policeman, Hayk Harutiunian. The “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily reported last week that Harutiunian is trying to secure a similar punishment for the tax official and is facing strong resistance from senior government officials.
Police brutality is commonplace in Armenia, with law-enforcement officers routinely extracting testimony by force and psychological pressure. Very few of them have ever been prosecuted for what many believe is the most widespread form of human rights abuse in Armenia.
Its victims are not always ordinary people. In July 2002, for example, a parliament deputy affiliated with Markarian’s Republican Party claimed to have been illegally detained and beaten by several officers led by the then chief of the Yerevan police, Ashot Gizirian. The authorities never investigated the incident in earnest, despite protests from several lawmakers. Shortly afterwards, Gizirian was appointed as the head of the Armenian interior ministry’s powerful Sixth Directorate charged with fighting organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking.
In April 2002, a large group of law-enforcement officials brawled in a street in central Yerevan. The fight broke out after a verbal spat between Minister Hovannes Varian and Arsen Beginian, a district prosecutor. Both men were seriously injured in the clash.
Also fired on Monday was another deputy head of the State Taxation Service, Samvel Petrosian. The reason for the move was not clear. Three other government officials promptly took the place of Yeganian and Petrosian.