Military investigators have formally charged the first suspects in connection with a recent non-combat death of an Armenian soldier who served near the border with Azerbaijan.
The 19-year-old conscript, Nerses Karapetian, was shot and killed at an Armenian army outpost in the northeastern Tavush province on May 10 in still unclear circumstances. Forensic tests conducted at the site of the shooting, which Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian visited right after the incident, ruled out the possibility of a suicide.
Meri Sargsian, a spokeswoman for the Armenian Defense Ministry’s investigating division, said on Thursday that the commander of the army company where Karapetian served, Captain Garegin Asrian, has been charged with harassing and humiliating the soldier, breaching combat duty rules and forging documents. She said military investigators have also levelled less grave accusations another serviceman, Sergeant Edgar Manukian.
Sargsian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that they both have pleaded guilty to the accusations and will not be arrested and kept in custody pending trial. The official declined to clarify, however, who the investigators think shot Karapetian in the head and whether the two suspects were directly involved in the killing. “The circumstances of the death are being ascertained,” she said.
Some of the dead soldier’s relatives found this fact suspicious, suggesting that 40 days should have been enough time for the military to identify the shooter. They say that shortly before his death Nerses complained to his parents that Captain Asrian is unjustly blaming for a theft of 180 liters of gasoline and demanding that he make up for the loss. “We are still waiting to hear the esteemed minister say who shot Nerses, said Karine Karapetian, the victim’s aunt.
Zhanna Aleksanian, a veteran human rights writer monitoring the case, said she fears that the authorities are intent on covering up yet another murder highlighting chronic hazing and other abuses in the Armenian armed forces. “A lot of facts are already known and it should have been quite easy for the investigating body to identify the main culprit,” Aleksanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The Armenian military claims to have significantly toughened its crackdown on army crime in recent years. It says the number of non-combat fatalities has been steadily decreasing. Activists like Aleksanian say, however, that the military and law-enforcement bodies are still not doing enough to tackle the problem.