Hovannes Tamamian, a controversial Armenian police general arrested last year, went on trial along with two other police officers on Thursday, accused of covering up a murder and a failed murder attempt.
The high-profile trial began almost one year after Tamamian was arrested and sacked as head of the Directorate General of Criminal Investigations at the national police service. He is facing between two and six years on charges of abuse of power that was committed for “mercantile or other motives” and led to “severe consequences.”
The case mainly stems from a murder committed in Yerevan in 2010. State prosecutors say police investigators overseen by Tamamian deliberately did not prosecute the murder perpetrator and charged another individual instead. They also alleged a similar cover-up of a 2009 murder attempt in another Armenian city, Gavar.
Tamamian’s lawyers said last month that their client will plead not guilty to the accusations because he considers them baseless. They refused to comment on Thursday, citing instructions given by him. One of the lawyers, Artavazd Parsadanian, said only that the investigators no longer accuse Tamamian of taking bribes in return for the alleged cover-up.
The police general, meanwhile, seemed to be in high spirits at the opening hearing in a district court in Yerevan, smiling and waving at friends present in the courtroom. “Film the other guys [defendants] as well, not just me,” he told photojournalists covering the trial.
Tamamian had for years been one of Armenia’s most controversial law-enforcement officials. He is thought to have played a major role in police crackdowns on the opposition that were ordered by former President Robert Kocharian in 2004 and 2008.