A prominent Armenian photojournalist said on Wednesday that police have refused to press charges against a police officer who assaulted him recently and may prosecute him instead.
The attack occurred just outside Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General on February 24 and was caught on security cameras placed on the building. The photojournalist, Gagik Shamshian, can be seen being confronted by a young man and repeatedly hit in the face in footage of the incident publicized by prosecutors last month. Shamshian says he was attacked after refusing to stop taking the man’s pictures.
The attacker was subsequently identified as Gagik Markarian, an officer at the police department of Yerevan’s Erebuni district. The Armenian police launched a criminal investigation after Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicly told Shamshian to lodge a formal complaint with law-enforcement authorities.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, the freelance photographer, who works for several pro-opposition newspapers, said a police investigator informed him on Tuesday that the criminal case has been closed. He said the police have also launched an inquiry into possible “false denunciation” by Shamshian, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.
Shamshian, who has a history of physical abuse at the hands of security officers, claimed that the police are thereby trying to stop him seeking a punishment for his attacker. “I complained about their colleague,” he said. “That is why the police investigators are now trying to silence and intimidate me.”
Garegin Begoyan, the police official investigating the incident, declined a comment when contacted by RFE/RL.
The chief of the national police service, Alik Sargsian, confirmed the closure of the criminal case but insisted that the decision is “not final.” “There will be a clarification in the coming days,” he told a news conference.
Sargsian assured journalists that the police are not keen to prosecute the photojournalist. “I think that Gagik Shamshian will not quite suffer from this case,” he said. “They will again summon and talk to him.”
(Below is CCTV footage of the incident)