By Karine KalantarianSenior police officials avoided talking about recent high-profile cases on Friday as they gathered media to present details of a new judicial reform.
Head of the Police Press Service Sayat Shirinian asked reporters in advance to ask only questions related to the upcoming changes in the prosecutorial system. He added that all unrelated questions would not be answered or would be answered vaguely.
To RFE/RL’s question about the results of the internal police probe into the death in custody of Levon Gulian last month, Shirinian said: “The investigation has not ended yet. It is still in progress.”
Police insist that Levon Gulian, 31, who died under unclear circumstances while being interrogated as a murder witness on May 12, tried to escape through the window of a second-floor interrogation room and accidentally “fell down in the process.” The victim’s family and lawyers, however, do not trust the suicide version and fear a cover-up attempt.
Another question about the dismissal of a senior police official earlier this week was also answered vaguely.
“Let’s accept it as a fact. The police system is not stagnant and appointments and dismissals happen,” Shirinian said, adding that Hovannes Varian is in reserve and keeps his rank as lieutenant-general.
Varian was relieved of his duties as deputy chief of police by President Robert Kocharian’s decree on Tuesday. No official explanation has been made since as for the reasons for firing the official regarded as loyal to the regime.
An Armenian daily newspaper, “Hayk”, claimed on Wednesday that Varian was fired over a fistfight with his immediate chief, Hayk Harutiunian. But the allegations have not been confirmed by any official source.
In presenting the upcoming reform, Police Investigation Department Chief Gagik Hambartsumian said that all investigation departments will be removed from the prosecutorial system and transferred to the police, the defense ministry, the customs committee and the tax service. The three-stage reform commencing July 1 will be completed by December of this year.
Hambartsumian hopes the reform will be successful as it will remove the existing shortcomings in the system.
The reforms stem from the amendments introduced in Armenia’s constitution in 2005, according to which the prosecutor’s office no longer has powers to conduct investigations, while its functions will be limited to oversight.
Hambartsumian said that Armenia has seen an increased number of instituted criminal cases in the first quarter of the year. “Although it is sad, this is a tendency currently observed everywhere in the world,” the major-general said. “Our approach is that if the number of crimes grows, then we’ve had some omissions.”