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Arrested Opposition Gunmen Face Murder Charges


Armenia - The funeral in Yerevan of Yuri Tepanosian, an Armenian police officer killed in a standoff between security forces and opposition gunmen, 1Aug2016.

Armenia - The funeral in Yerevan of Yuri Tepanosian, an Armenian police officer killed in a standoff between security forces and opposition gunmen, 1Aug2016.

Some members of an armed opposition group that seized a police station in Yerevan in July may soon be charged with killing three police officers during their two-week standoff with Armenian security forces, a senior prosecutor said on Friday.

The 30 arrested gunmen have so far been formally accused of only seizing state buildings and taking hostages. Law-enforcement authorities have yet to say which of them were personally responsible for the deaths of the three officers.

Armenia’s Deputy Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian spoke of progress made in the ongoing murder probe, which is part of a broader criminal investigation into the July 17 attack on the police compound in Yerevan’s Erebuni district.

“A large-scale and speedy investigation is underway,” Davtian told reporters. “I can’t disclose information that would breach the secrecy of the investigation but will just say that we have some results in this regard.”

“When sufficient evidence is collected in a manner defined by the law, concrete guilty individuals will be charged,” he said.

The gunmen shot several policemen when they seized the police facility to demand President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation and the release of Zhirayr Sefilian, the jailed leader of their Founding Parliament radical opposition group.

One of the officers, Colonel Artur Vanoyan, died on the spot. Another officer shot in the Erebuni compound, Gagik Mkrtchian, succumbed to his chest and abdomen wounds on August 13.

The third police casualty, Yuri Tepanosian, was killed on July 30, the day before the 20 remaining gunmen holed up in the Erebuni compound surrendered to the authorities. The police said the 30-year-old father of three was shot by one of the gunmen as he sat in a police car parked about 400 meters from the besieged compound.

Armenia - Gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan, 23July2016.

Armenia - Gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan, 23July2016.

Varuzhan Avetisian, the gunmen’s leader, insisted that Tepanosian was not gunned down by his armed group. Avetisian said the officer’s car was not even visible from the compound.

The police responded by releasing photographs meant to disprove Avetisian’s claims. They also circulated a short video purportedly showing a man with a sniper rifle taking a position on the roof of a police building inside the compound.

According to the Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement body leading the investigation, 60 individuals have been charged in the high-profile case to date. Fifty of them are held in detention while two others remain on the run, the SIS said earlier this week.

The Erebuni attack came almost one month after Sefilian was arrested for allegedly plotting an armed revolt against the Armenian government. Sefilian and his associates denied the accusations as politically motivated.

Last month, the SIS decided to merge the case against Sefilian with the Erebuni attack probe, suggesting that the Founding Parliament leader may be implicated in the deadly standoff.

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