Hovannes Tamamian, a controversial Armenian police general arrested last year, was sentenced to four years in prison on Friday on charges of covering up a murder and a failed murder attempt.
Two other senior police officers arrested as part of the same criminal case got off with suspended 2.5-year-prison sentences and walked free.
A Yerevan court found Tamamian guilty 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 at the request of Levon Sargsian, a controversial businessman and parliament deputy linked with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Prosecutors also alleged a similar cover-up of a 2009 murder attempt in another Armenian city, Gavar. The court found their claims substantiated and handed down the kind of guilty verdict that was demanded by the prosecution.
Tamamian initially pleaded not guilty to the accusations, calling them unfounded. However, he unexpectedly admitted his guilt and asked the court for clemency earlier this month.
“I didn’t expect such a verdict and believe that the judicial act is unfair,” Tamamian’s lawyer, Vaghinak Gevorgian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) after the announcement of the ruling. He said he will consult with his client before deciding whether to appeal it.
Tamamian went on trial last month almost one year after being arrested and sacked as head of the power Directorate General of Criminal Investigations at the Armenian police. He was taken into custody a week after President Serzh Sarkisian publicly expressed outrage at the police’s handling of the Yerevan murder. Sarkisian labeled Tamamian an “immoral” person who disgraced the Armenian police.
The police general 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.
Armenian human rights groups have also implicated Tamamian in the death of a man questioned at the Directorate General of Criminal Investigations in 2007. The police claimed at the time that Levon Gulian fell to his death while attempting to escape from a second-floor interrogation room. Gulian’s relatives rejected that theory, saying that the 30-year-old was beaten to death while being interrogated by Tamamian.