An Armenian army colonel was fired and arrested on Monday following the death of one of four civilian men allegedly assaulted by him on New Year’s Eve.
Doctors at Yerevan’s Surp Grigor Lusavorich hospital told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the 20-year-old Taron Yengibarian died from severe head injuries sustained at a military base near the northeastern town of Ijevan.
Yengibarian and three other residents of Getavohit village located in the area reportedly clashed with the unit’s commander, Colonel Sergei Karapetian, and several other officers late on December 31 while visiting, apparently without an authorization, a friend serving there.
According to the victims’ relatives, Karapetian insulted them and shot at their car before having them forcibly taken to his second-floor office. They say the young men jumped out of the office window to escape and were hospitalized with serious injuries. Yengibarian suffered a fractured skull.
Military investigators have still not confirmed or denied this version of events, saying only that there was a “dispute between the unit’s commander and a group of civilians.” They have also said that a criminal investigation is being conducted under an article of the Criminal Code dealing with “hooliganism.”
According to an Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian signed on Monday an executive order dismissing Karapetian and two other officer from their positions.
An official at the ministry’s Investigative Service told RFE/RL’s Armenian service later in the day that Karapetian has been detained but not formally charged yet. Whether the two other fired servicemen will also be prosecuted was not immediately clear.
Several other Armenian officers were already arrested late last year in connection with a spate of non-combat deaths and other violent incidents within the army ranks. One of them was sentenced to three years in prison last month for beating and humiliating two conscripts in a videotaped incident publicized through the Internet.
Amid a barrage of media criticism, Ohanian has repeatedly pledged a tougher crackdown on army crimes, while maintaining that their number has considerably fallen over the past decade.