A second arrested member of the armed opposition group which seized a police station in Yerevan in July has been charged with murdering a police officer, his lawyer revealed on Wednesday.
Law-enforcement authorities have formally implicated Armen Bilian in the death of Senior Warrant Officer Gagik Mkrtchian, one of the three policemen killed during the gunmen’s two-week standoff with security forces.
Mkrtchian and Colonel Artur Vanoyan were shot during the attack on their police compound in Yerevan’s Erebuni district carried out by armed members of Founding Parliament, a radical opposition group. Vanoyan died on the spot, while Mkrtchian, succumbed to his wounds on August 13.
The third policeman, Yuri Tepanosian, was shot dead on July 30, the day before the 20 remaining gunmen holed up in the compound surrendered to the Armenian authorities.
Bilian’s defense attorney, Armine Fanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that her client denies the murder charge which she said is based on conflicting testimony given by “a single person.” Fanian refused to name that person, arguing that a criminal investigation into the Erebuni attack is not yet over.
The lawyer insisted that investigators will fail to come up with compelling evidence of Bilian’s guilt. “There can be no such evidence,” she said. “We ourselves are going to present evidence to prove that Armen Bilian was not at the place where that police officer was killed.”
Like most of the 43 other men arrested in connection with the attack, Bilian was until now accused of only hostage taking and illegal arms possession.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS), which is leading the inquiry, said on October 25 that it has identified all of the individuals who killed the three police officers. It emerged on Tuesday that another gunman, Smbat Barseghian, has been formally charged in Tepanosian’s killing. Barseghian denied the accusation through a lawyer.
It is not yet clear who will be prosecuted in connection with Vanoyan’s death.
Immediately after seizing the police facility on July 17, the gunmen demanded President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation and the release of Zhirayr Sefilian, the jailed leader of Founding Parliament. Sefilian was arrested on June 20 for allegedly plotting an armed revolt against the Armenian government. Sefilian and his associates denied the accusations as politically motivated.