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Former Investigator Denies Fresh Charges


Armenia - Armenian army soldiers are deployed on a street in Yerevan where security forces clashed with opposition protesters, 2 March 2008.

A former senior Armenian law-enforcement official dismissed on Thursday additional charges brought against him over his handling of a criminal investigation into the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.

Vahagn Harutiunian, who led that investigation until last year, was charged in October with forging factual evidence to cover up the Armenian army’s involvement in the deadly breakup of opposition protests staged in the wake of a disputed presidential election. He left Armenia for Russia in July, ostensibly to receive medical treatment.

Last month, the Special Investigative Service (SIS), in which Harutiunian used to hold a senior position, also charged him with two counts of abuse of power. A Yerevan court allowed the SIS to arrest him on December 30.

In a telephone interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Harutiunian said he is still in Moscow and is in no rush to return to Armenia. “I am not yet done with my treatment here,” he said. “It is now hampered by that arrest warrant.”

“Neither the arrest warrant nor its absence could be an obstacle to my return. As for return dates, I can’t say anything concrete yet,” he added.

Harutiunian claimed that Armenian law-enforcement authorities fabricated the charges against him because they want to imprison him any cost. “Right from the beginning their task was to accuse me of something,” he said.

The SIS declined to comment on its former senior official’s claims. The law-enforcement body said instead that Harutiunian should turn himself in as soon as possible.

Harutiunian insisted earlier that his team of investigators never found any evidence of illegal actions taken by the Armenian military during the 2008 unrest, which left eight protesters and two police servicemen dead.

The SIS completely changed the official version of events following last spring’s mass protests that toppled Armenia’s former government. It now says that former President Serzh Sarkisian’s outgoing predecessor, Robert Kocharian, illegally ordered army units into the streets of Yerevan before declaring a state of emergency on March 1, 2008.

Kocharian was arrested on December 7 on charges of overthrowing Armenia’s constitutional order. The former president denies them, saying that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian is waging a political “vendetta” against him.

Pashinian was a key speaker at the 2008 protests. He subsequently spent about two years in prison for organizing what the SIS described as “mass disturbances.” He strongly denied those charges.

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