The chief of Armenia’s police service, General Alik Sargsian, insisted on Tuesday that a young man who died in police custody last week was not ill-treated by his interrogators.
“I want to make clear that there was no torture,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Such claims about beatings, torture and the like are made all the time, especially among the popular masses.”
Sargsian argued that police officers in the central town of Charentsavan did not need to forcibly extract any testimony from the 24-year-old Vahan Khalafian because he and four other local residents confessed to a theft shortly after being detained on April 13. “There is simply no point in subjecting [a suspect] to torture after obtaining confessing testimony and other factual evidence,” he said.
“Why would we murder that young man? Was he an enemy of the nation or did he hurt the police in any way? He simply committed a crime, a theft, as a result of which he was brought to the police station. What torture or beating are they talking about?” complained the police chief.
The police claim that Khalafian stabbed himself to death after the interrogation, implicitly attributing that to a mental disorder from which he allegedly suffered. But the dead man’s relatives angrily deny this, saying that his death was caused by police torture. They say there are at least two stab wounds on Khalafian’s abdomen and numerous bruises in other parts of his body, which is currently undergoing forensic examinations.
Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS), which is investigating the suspicious death, has give more weight to such allegations by stating last week that “Vahan Khalafian’s murder by employees of the Charentsavan division of the Armenian police” is among the theories of the incident considered by it.
“Let specialists examine the matter and tell the truth,” Sargsian said when asked about the SIS statement. He ruled out any police interference in the ongoing forensic tests and said their final results will be announced “within several days.”
“Let the forensic doctors come up with an appropriate conclusion … If the policemen are guilty, all of them will be punished,” Sargsian said, adding that he has also ordered an internal police inquiry into the highly embarrassing death.