An Armenian police officer was reportedly arrested on Wednesday in the ongoing criminal investigation into last week’s suspicious death of a man in police custody.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS), which is conducting the inquiry, said the officer, Moris Hayrapetian, is suspected of abusing his powers and forcing Vahan Khalafian, a 24-year-old resident of the town of Charentsavan, to commit suicide.
The announcement is an indication that the SIS is leaning towards accepting police claims that Khalafian stabbed himself to death at the Charentsavan police station after confessing to committing a theft together with three other young men. The chief of the Armenian police, Alik Sargsian, insisted on this version of events in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Monday.
Khalafian’s relatives believe, however, that he was tortured to death by his interrogators. They say a forensic examination of his body exposed ample evidence of his ill-treatment.
The SIS, which is subordinated to state prosecutors, said last week that deadly torture is among the theories of the incident considered by its investigators.
“The investigation is continuing, and all necessary measures are being taken to ensure its objectivity, integrity and comprehensiveness,” the law-enforcement agency said in a statement on Wednesday. It said forensic tests are still going on to ascertain the cause of Khalafian’s death and whether he was beaten up before the fatal stabbing.
Sargsian said on Tuesday that forensic experts will announce their final findings “within several days.” He insisted that the police are not pressuring or interfering in their work.