Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian and other Armenian law-enforcement officials on Monday briefed a visiting senior U.S. State Department official on their renewed investigation into the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan.
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said Thomas Melia, the deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy and human rights, inquired about the controversial probe and received detailed information about it. It said Melia was specifically interested in the execution of a recent order issued by President Serzh Sarkisian to investigators.
Responding to opposition demands, Sarkisian told Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement body subordinate to prosecutors, to investigate the March 2008 clashes in Yerevan in “a more meticulous” way. Sarkisian said investigators should specifically try to identify those responsible for the deaths of eight opposition protesters and two police personnel.
According to a statement issued by his office, Hovsepian told Melia that they have still not succeeded in doing that because of “objective obstacles.” “The events took place at night and involved thousands of people in a residential area covering several thousand square meters,” he was quoted as saying.
Hovsepian also said that the investigators, who continue to be accused by the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) of cover-up, need assistance from international forensic and other experts in that endeavor.
Andranik Mirzoyan, the SIS director, and Vahagn Harutiunian, the head of an SIS team conducting the inquiry, were also present at the meeting. Harutiunian told Melia that since Sarkisian’s order issued in late April his team has interrogated 70 witnesses and plans to question more than 400 others.
The statement added that the U.S. official praised the investigators for the “great deal of work” done by them. “I can feel just how well-informed you are about the investigation,” he was quoted as saying.
The investigation has until now targeted supporters and associates of HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian. More than 100 of them were arrested following the unrest on what the Armenian opposition regards as trumped-up charges. By contrast, virtually no law-enforcement officers have been prosecuted to date.
Melia met with Ter-Petrosian later in the day. A short statement by the HAK said they focused the political situation in Armenia.
The U.S. diplomat also met with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, the two men discussed “the Armenian authorities’ efforts to strengthen democracy, positive progress registered in that direction and further steps.”