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Victim’s Relatives Slam Probe Of Detention Death


Armenia -- Anahit, mother of Vahan Khalafian who died in police custody, Charentsavan, 18May2010

Armenia -- Anahit, mother of Vahan Khalafian who died in police custody, Charentsavan, 18May2010

Relatives of a man who died in Armenian police custody last month condemned on Tuesday state forensic experts for giving more weight to police claims that he committed suicide and was not tortured to death.


The experts concluded late last week that Vahan Khalafian, a resident of the central town of Charentsavan, may have stabbed himself to death at the local police station. Their findings are supposedly based on detailed examinations of the 24-year-old’s body and may be decisive for the outcome of the ongoing criminal investigation conducted by the by Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS).

The forensic medics confirmed earlier reports that there were two stab wounds on Khalafian’s abdomen. But they said the nature of those wounds and their “anatomic location” suggest that “their infliction by V. Khalafian upon himself is possible.”

The experts also found numerous injuries in various parts of his body. But they said none of those were life-threatening.

Armenia -- Hmayak Khalafian, uncle of a man who died in police custody, speaks to RFE/RL, 18 May 2010.
The dead man’s relatives interviewed by RFE/RL’s Armenian service angrily rejected their findings. “The examination report shows that there are bloodied wounds on his skull, in the nose and mouth cavity, vertical cuts caused by a knife on the upper abdomen, injuries on the knee joints and feet,” his uncle Hmayak Khalafian said. “I’m simply amazed. After suffering so many injuries, how could a person stand up and kill himself?”

“Vahan must have rolled on the floor in pain. How could he have stood up and resorted to such an action? He would have rather struck the criminal investigations unit chief who beat him up,” he said, referring to one of the two Charentsavan police officers arrested on charges of torture.

Hmayak Khalafian also argued that investigators have failed to identify fingerprints on the kitchen knife with which the young man killed himself after a brutal police interrogation on April 13. “If he stabbed himself twice, how come there are no fingerprints on the knife?” he asked.

The Khalafian family, backed by some Armenian human rights activists, has alleged all along that Vahan was killed by police interrogators. After initial denials, the Armenian police have acknowledged that he was ill-treated in police custody. But the police insist that his death was caused by a suicide.

Whether the SIS, which is directly subordinated to Armenian prosecutors, itself has already drawn any final conclusion on the cause of the death is not yet known.
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