Two high-ranking Armenian police officials have been dismissed because of their complicity in a murder cover-up, state prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Major-General Hovannes Tamamian, the controversial head of the Directorate General of Criminal Investigations at the national police service, and Colonel Varuzhan Adamian, the police chief of Yerevan’s Arabkir district, were formally relieved of their duties on Saturday. The national police chief, Alik Sargsian, gave no reasons for the sackings ordered by him.
Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian said through a spokesman that he himself asked Sargsian on February 23 to fire the two men because of what he considers a bungled police investigation into the deadly shooting of a man in Arabkir in May last year.
The spokesman, Shahen Tonoyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that police investigators deliberately failed to prosecute the murder perpetrator and charged another individual instead. He said the culprit, identified as Vram Baghdasarian, was arrested only after an “additional investigation” overseen by prosecutors.
“Hovannes Tamamian and Varuzhan Adamian did not take all necessary measures stemming from their duties to solve the crime,” Tonoyan said, adding that this led to a “distortion of significant circumstances” of the murder. The two men could have obstructed justice had they continued to perform their duties, he said.
Citing the need to maintain “the secrecy of the investigation,” the official declined to specify whether the alleged murder cover-up was the result of police corruption. He also refused to confirm or deny media claims that the ousted policemen are now facing criminal proceedings launched by Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS).
The SIS, which is subordinated to the Armenian prosecutors, also declined a comment.
Tamamian has for years been one of Armenia’s most controversial law-enforcement officials. He is thought to have actively participated in harsh police crackdowns on the Armenian opposition ordered by former President Robert Kocharian in 2004 and 2008.
Tamamian was also one of the main targets of an uproar sparked by the May 2007 death of a man in police custody. Levon Gulian, a Yerevan-based restaurant owner, was found dead after being questioned at the Directorate General of Criminal Investigations. The police claimed that Gulian fell to his death while attempting to escape from a second-floor interrogation room.
Gulian’s family vehemently rejected this theory, saying that the 30-year-old father of two was tortured to death by police investigators. It claimed that Tamamian personally interrogated the victim. The police general denied that, however.