A family member of one of the victims of last year’s post-election unrest in Yerevan has expressed his dissatisfaction with the recent decision by investigators to bring a charge of mishandling the riot equipment against police officers suspected of causing at least three deaths among civilians through ineptly using teargas while trying to quell the opposition’s street protests on March 1, 2008.
Armenian law-enforcement authorities had said teargas grenades fired from a very short distance killed three of the eight civilians who lost their lives on that day. Ten people, including two police officers, were killed and more than 200 injured in street battles between security forces and demonstrators.
Talking to RFE/RL, Sarkis Kloyan, the father of 28-year-old Gor Kloyan who was among those supposedly killed through the misuse of “Cheremukha-7” teargas grenades, reminded that still in April, after amendments made in the Criminal Code resulting in the separation of the case against seven leading members of the opposition charged with plotting a coup, the Special Investigation Service (SIS) launched a criminal case on the charge of premeditated murder with the purpose of establishing the circumstances of the March 1, 2008 deaths and finding those responsible for them. The case instituted last week concerns mishandling the riot equipment and stretch of authority.
“What happened that they changed premeditated murder into ‘mishandling the riot equipment’? Families of other victims and I are not satisfied, because we think it is an imitation… it is a disgrace,” said Kloyan. “We demand a fair investigation. We want them to change the charge into premeditated murder. My son was killed by a shot fired at point-blank range.”
“I fear that the case will be dismissed either by prosecutors or at best in court,” continued Kloyan. “An arrangement has been made that those responsible be charged but not arrested and then they will be amnestied.”
Alla Hovannisian, the mother of Tigran Khachatrian, 23, who was also killed by “Cheremukha-7”, also voiced her dissatisfaction with the charge and called it ‘eyewash’.
“It is a fabricated case and has been launched not to punish the murderers, but to do something before the Council of Europe and later amnesty these four police officers,” she said.
Hovannisian also claimed a high-level cover-up for those who ordered the use of the equipment to avoid responsibility.
A spokesperson at the Armenian Prosecutor-General’s office said legal qualifications would be possible to make only after the investigation establishes the details and circumstances of the use of the equipment. She confirmed that no arrests have been made or charges brought in the cases yet.