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Top Officers in Armenian Town Fired Over Police Custody Death


Armenia -- Vahan Khalafian, a 24-year-old man who died in police custody on 13 April 2010, photo undated.

Armenia -- Vahan Khalafian, a 24-year-old man who died in police custody on 13 April 2010, photo undated.

An internal investigation in a central Armenian town over a death in police custody has led to the dismissal of the town’s police chief and three officers.

The chief of Armenia’s police, Alik Sargsian, told RFE/RL on Friday that Norik Heboyan, the chief of Charentsavan’s police, “had no right to continue to work in the department, since such a negligent situation was also the result of the leadership’s lax control.” He said the other workers of the department had been reprimanded or subjected to disciplinary action.

Charentsavan’s 24-year-old resident Vahan Khalafian and several other young men were detained by the town’s police on April 13 on suspicion of theft. Khalafian was found dead later that day. Armenian police claimed the suspect was not ill-treated during the interrogation and had committed suicide by stabbing himself with a knife. But the young man’s family and human rights activists maintain he was tortured and subsequently killed by his interrogator, or interrogators.

Police Chief Sargsian on Friday again repeated that he ruled out a murder theory in the Khalafian case. Earlier this week, Armenia’s Special Investigative Service conducting the probe into the suspicious death largely endorsed the police version of events. The body said the early conclusion was based on relevant findings of forensic experts, which Khalafian’s relatives and human rights activists claim are incomplete.

Two police officers remain in custody in connection with the case on charges of abuse of authority in driving the young man to commit suicide.
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