By Ruzanna Stepanian
Five persons, including a man whose entire family was shot dead four years ago, have been arrested by police in northern Armenia on suspicion of commissioning and carrying out the high-profile murder of a local crime figure, law-enforcement officials said Tuesday.
Edik Martirosian, a reputed leader of the local underworld, his son and a friend were ambushed and gunned down in an SUV car on August 3 as they left a restaurant near Vanadzor, the administrative center of the Lori region. Martirosian, better known as “Chachoi Edo,” was a member of the Armenian parliament from 1996-99. He had reportedly survived several assassination attempts.
A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General’s Office told RFE/RL that investigators believe that the crime was masterminded by two of the arrested Lori residents, Armen Kakhian and his brother-in-law Armen Yerznkian. He said the three other suspects are hitmen hired by them.
However, Kakhian strongly denies the accusations and is “imploding” from anger, according to his defense lawyer Vaghinak Gevorgian. “Armen Kakhian could have had any involvement in that murder,” Gevorgian told RFE/RL.
Kakhian’s pregnant wife and one-year-old child were slain in 2004 when their house in a village near Vanadzor was attacked by unknown gunmen. He was not at home during the attack.
Martirosian was rumored to have had a hand in the gruesome killings at the time. The former parliamentarian’s “contacts and authority in the criminal world” were publicly acknowledged and emphasized by the deputy chief of the Armenian police, Ararat Mahtesian, shortly after his death.
However, state prosecutors would not say if there is a link between the two crimes. Nor is it clear if they are connected with last July’s murder of another reputed Vanadzor mobster, Goga Arakelian. He was shot dead outside a commercial bank in Yerevan.
Gevorgian claimed that the investigator’s case against his client is based on his repeated public threats to avenge the slaughter of his family which he believes was the work of Martirosian. The attoney also said relatives have told him that Kakhian has been tortured in detention.
“I saw no traces of violence on his face. But I am convinved that there was coercion,” he said.
Violations of the due process of law have also been alleged by relatives of other suspects. Some of them have lodged complaints with Armenia’s office of human rights ombudsman.