By Ruzanna Stepanian
The lawyer representing the family of a man who died in police custody said on Wednesday that the results of official forensic tests disprove police claims that he was not subjected to torture.
Levon Gulian, 31, was found dead at the headquarters of the Armenian Police Service’s Directorate General of Criminal Investigations on May 12. He was questioned there as a presumed witness of a deadly shooting that took place outside his restaurant in Yerevan’s southern Shengavit district on May 9.
The police claim that he fell to his death while attempting to escape from a second-floor interrogation room of the police building in downtown Yerevan. Gulian’s relatives deny this, saying that that he was tortured to death before being thrown out of the window.
Their lawyer, Hrayr Ghukasian, stopped short of explicitly endorsing these allegations. But he did reject the official version of the incident, citing the findings of Armenian forensic experts. Ghukasian stressed, in particular, that they found only three fingerprints on the window out of which Gulian allegedly jumped to the ground.
“One of them was from the middle finger of his right hand, and the two others from the middle finger of his left hand. No other fingerprints belonging to Levon Gulian were found on the window,” he told a news conference.
According to the lawyer, the forensic examination also found suspicious traces of palms on the same window and established that they belonged neither to Gulian, nor to the two law-enforcement officers who the police say interrogated him. “So it can be inferred that the palm imprints were left by a third person who has not been identified by the investigators as of now,” he said.
Ghukasian also cited several other findings which he believes run counter to the official theory, which has also been dismissed by local human rights campaigners. Some of them have openly accused the police of manslaughter.
The high-profile case has attracted a strong public resonance, forcing the chief of the Armenian police, Hayk Harutiunian, to order an internal investigation. The Office of the Prosecutor-General, for its part, opened a separate criminal case in connection with the incident. The law-enforcement authorities also agreed to an independent examination of Gulian’s body by two European medical experts.
The German and Danish medics who examined Gulian’s body later in May have already submitted their report to the Armenian law-enforcement authorities and the dead man’s family. It reportedly contains no definitive verdict on the precise cause of Gulian’s death.
Still, Ghukasian claimed that the experts reported numerous bruises on Gulian’s jaw, arms, shoulders and feet and said those were inflicted before his fall. The lawyer said this means that Gulian was either forced to commit suicide or beaten to death.