Armenian law-enforcement authorities on Wednesday pledged to investigate the death of a man which followed his arrest and interrogation by police in Yerevan.
The 36-year-old Edgar Tsatinian was detained late last week in connection with the killing of an elderly woman who lived in his neighborhood. He reportedly died from drug intoxication several hours after being rushed to hospital from a police station in Yerevan’s Nor Nork district.
Tsatinian’s mother, Larisa Yetarian, claims that police officers beat him up in in an attempt to get him to implicate two other persons in the murder. Yetarian says that they planted a drug in his pocket after he refused to give such incriminating testimony.
“My boy then took it from his pocket and swallowed it for fear [of prosecution,]” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Tuesday.
Yetarian alleged that Tsatinian was denied medical assistance at the nearby Surb Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center before being taken to another hospital, the Armenia Medical Center, where he died several hours later. He was not properly treated there, she said.
“Edgar kept telling me, ‘Mom, don’t leave the [hospital] ward, they got orders to kill me,” added the grief-stricken mother.
A deputy director of the Surb Grigor Lusavorich hospital, Petros Manukian, said that Tsatinian was turned away from his hospital simply because it is not equipped to treat drug intoxications. Officials at the Armenia Medical Center insisted that Tsatinian did receive adequate medical care there.
The Armenian police, for their part, denied ill-treating Tsatinian. A police statement also emphasized the fact that he had a criminal record. It warned that his mother’s allegations may amount to “false denunciation,” a criminal offence in Armenia.
Nevertheless, the allegations prompted serious concern from human rights activists and some opposition parliamentarians. One of those activists, Nina Karapetiants, said that the police may be bullying the deceased man’s family with the “false denunciation” warning.
Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) announced, meanwhile, that it has launched a criminal investigation into possible negligent homicide. The investigation was recommended by the Office of the Prosecutor-General.
According to local and international human rights groups, ill-treatment of criminal suspects in custody has long been commonplace in Armenia. Justice Minister Artak Zeynalian claimed on Tuesday that the Armenian police have stopped resorting to the illegal practice.