By Karine Simonian in Vanadzor
A senior Armenian prosecutor murdered over the weekend was buried on Monday in the presence of top government and law-enforcement officials who pledged to identify and punish the perpetrators of the latest high-profile killing.
Albert Ghazarian, the chief prosecutor of the northern Lori region, was shot dead outside his home in the regional capital Vanadzor on Saturday night. Law-enforcement authorities swiftly launched a criminal investigation conducted by a team of prosecutors, police officers and investigators from the National Security Service (NSS).
A spokesman for President Robert Kocharian issued a special statement the next morning strongly condemning the murder. The Office of the Prosecutor-General said “all necessary measures to clarify all circumstances of the crime and identify the guilty.” No arrests were reported as of Monday evening.
Ghazarian’s funeral in Vanadzor was attended by Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian and Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian. The latter cut short his vacation to personally oversee the ongoing inquiry.
Hovsepian’s written message to his subordinates was read out during the funeral by Deputy Prosecutor-General Mnatsakan Sargsian. It described the killing as a “desperate reaction from criminals who are in their death throes.” “I am confident that all circumstances of the crime will be fully uncovered and the guilty will get their deserved punishment,” read the message.
Investigators have so far refused to be drawn on any theories of the crime considered by them. It is not clear if any of those theories relates to Ghazarian’s strained relationship with Vanadzor Mayor Samvel Darpinian. It was exposed when the slain prosecutor’s son-in-law, Gagik Hovsepian, was controversially defeated by Darpinian during the last mayoral election held in Armenia’s third largest city. Ghazarian subsequently clashed with Darpinian over what he considered illegal allocations of municipal land.
The Vanadzor mayor was also among several local officials, including Lori’s former Governor Henrik Kochinian, implicated in a embezzlement case brought by the Lori prosecutor’s office last June. They are suspected of a large-scale theft of equipment from a local sewage works which allegedly occurred during the 1990s.
A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General’s Office, Sona Truzian, refused to specify whether the investigators see a possible link between this and the murder. “In the interests of the investigation, no information about steps taken by investigators will be released for the time being,” she told RFE/RL. “As for the theories of the crime discussed during the investigation, they are not subject to publication.”
Darpinian, meanwhile, was conspicuously absent from the funeral. Witnesses said an official from the mayor’s office who visited Ghazarian’s house to offer his and his boss’s condolences met with a hostile reception from the slain prosecutor’s relatives.
(Photolur photo: Albert Ghazarian.)