By Shakeh Avoyan
Prosecutors investigating the apparent murder of an ethnic Armenian activist from Georgia at a popular Yerevan café have not launched so far criminal proceedings against bodyguards of President Robert Kocharian who are widely suspected of beating the man to death. A spokesman for the prosecutor-general’s office told RFE/RL Monday that nobody has been charged yet in connection with the incident, which is a huge embarrassment for Kocharian.
The official, Gurgen Ambarian, refused to make any preliminary conclusions, saying that the investigators have questioned witnesses and are currently awaiting results of an official medical examination of the man's body.
The 43-year-old Poghos Poghosian was found dead in the toilet of the “Aragast” café early last Tuesday, shortly after Kocharian left the entertainment site together with French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour. Kocharian suspended several of his security guards the next day amid mounting allegations that they caused Poghosian’s death. According to most witness accounts, the bodyguards, whose identities have not been disclosed, assaulted the reportedly drunk man after he made remarks which they thought offended the president.
Law-enforcement authorities initially suggested that Poghosian, who headed a village administration in Georgia’s Armenian-populated Javakhetia region, died of a heart failure but later scrapped that hypothesis. The influential Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party, of which Poghosian was a member, has dismissed the theory, insisting that he was killed.
Dashnaktsutyun leaders said on Monday that they are closely following the inquiry ordered by Kocharian. “We will keep the spotlight on the key question preoccupying us until the case is finally solved,” one of them, Gegham Manukian, told RFE/RL. He said officials at a Yerevan mortuary found severe injuries in Poghosian’s head and abdomen which point to a violent death.
Manukian at the same time warned opponents of the current authorities against exploiting the case for their political interests. The pan-Armenian nationalist party has been a major ally of Kocharian ever since he came to power in February 1998.
Poghosian was buried on Saturday in his Jigrashen village in Georgia’s Ninotsminda district bordering on northwestern Armenia. His funeral was attended by the Dashnaktsutyun leadership in Armenia.
Meanwhile, there are conflicting accounts of what precisely the Georgian citizen might have said to Kocharian as the latter walked out of his favorite café in the Armenian capital. According to some local press reports, he loudly called Kocharian “Rob.” The Armenian leader has not yet publicly commented on the potentially explosive case.