Prosecutors in Armenia are seeking an eight-year prison sentence for a police officer standing trial for ill-treating a young man who died in police custody in still unclear circumstances.
Major Ashot Harutiunian, the former chief of criminal investigations at the police department of Charentsavan, a small town about 40 kilometers north of Armenian capital Yerevan, was arrested in late April and charged with beating Vahan Khalafian, one of several suspects in a theft investigation, which allegedly led the latter to commit suicide.
Khalafian, 24, was detained on April 13 along with several other young men and died in police custody later that day in what police, and later investigators, said was suicide, with the man allegedly stabbing himself to death with a knife.
Khalafian’s family and leading human rights groups, however, challenged the official version of the events, claiming that the young man was tortured and subsequently killed by his interrogator, or interrogators.
The Armenian police initially denied the suspect was ill-treated during the interrogation, but Armenia’s Special Investigative Service conducting a probe in the suspicious death said later that Khalafian committed suicide after enduring torture at the hands of Harutiunian.
During the trial Harutiunian, the main defendant in the case, pleaded not guilty to the charge. He also alleged that Khalafian was in fact tortured to death by one of his subordinates, who now faces a lesser charge in the same proceedings after allegedly agreeing to cooperate with the prosecution.
The prosecution on Monday also demanded between 18- and 24-months’ suspended prison sentences for the other three police officers in the same trial charged with abusing their official position and “failing to prevent Ashot Harutiunian’s actions.”