One officer and one soldier were arrested on Wednesday in connection with the latest non-combat death in the Armenian army’s ranks which has sparked a fresh public outcry against chronic abuse of military personnel.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry refused to identify the detainees, citing “the interests of the investigation” and the need to protect their families. It also said that more arrests are possible “in the coming days.”
Ministry spokesman Davit Karapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the tow men are suspected of causing the death of Aghasi Abrahamian, an 18-year-old army conscript.
Abrahamian, who served in an army unit near Nagorno-Karabakh, died shortly after being hospitalized with serious injuries late on Friday. The soldier was reportedly unconscious when he was brought to a Karabakh military hospital.
Military authorities in Yerevan launched an investigation under a Criminal Code clause dealing with involuntary manslaughter. Abrahamian’s relatives believe that the conscript was beaten to death and want the investigators to treat the case accordingly.
According to Karapetian, the two arrested suspects may face more serious accusations.
The official also said that Armenia’s chief military prosecutor, Gevorg Kostanian, and the head of the Defense Ministry’s Investigative Department, Armen Harutiunian, arrived at the army unit in question on Saturday to personally lead the inquiry. Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Gasparian will also travel to Karabakh for that purpose on Thursday, he added.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said late on Tuesday that the military will do “everything” to solve the embarrassing case. “We have identified the circle of persons who could have affected or beaten the soldier, and serious work is now underway within the framework of the criminal case,” he told journalists.
The assurances came amid a wave of public indignation triggered by Abrahamian’s death. Local media and civic activists renewed their angry claims that the military command is doing little to tackle hazing of soldiers and other violent crimes committed in the armed forces.
According to unconfirmed data from Armenian human rights groups, 20 soldiers have been killed by fellow servicemen, committed suicide or died in various accidents and as a result of illnesses so far this year.
Ohanian did not confirm or deny this figure. He said only that the first half of 2011 saw the lowest number of non-combat deaths since 2007.
Ohanian has repeatedly pledged over the past year to get tougher on army crime.