An Armenian army officer who reportedly threatened to blow up a restaurant where one of his colleagues was beaten to death was formally charged and remanded in pre-trial custody on Wednesday.
Lieutenant-Colonel Vartan Samvelian, the deputy commander of an army regiment, burst into the Harsnakar restaurant with two hand grenades and a large amount of explosive materials in the early hours of Sunday. He reportedly threatened to set off a powerful explosion to avenge the death of Vahe Avetian, an army doctor assaulted by restaurant guards on June 17.
Samvelian surrendered to police after three-hour negotiations with senior law-enforcement officers. Neither he nor his legal representatives have issued any public statements on the incident.
Mary Sargsian, a spokesman for the Armenian Defense Ministry’s Investigative Service, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the 39-year-old officer has been charged with illegal arms possession. But she would not say if military investigators handling the case could also bring other accusations, including terrorism, carrying lengthier prison sentences. She said only that he will be kept under arrest pending trial.
The Armenian police chief, Vladimir Gasparian, suggested on Tuesday that Samvelian never intended to carry out a bomb attack.
Samvelian went to Harsnakar just hours after hundreds of people held a candlelight vigil for Avetian outside the restaurant.