Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian commended Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) on Wednesday after it arrested a senior police officer suspected of killing a protester during the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.
The retired officer, Gegham Petrosian, was the deputy commander of Armenian interior troops, which are part of the national police service, at the time. He was arrested by the SIS on Tuesday on suspicion of shooting one of the eight protesters who died during violent clashes with security forces on March 1-2, 2008.
A spokeswoman for the law-enforcement agency investigating the violence told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Wednesday morning that Petrosian has not been formally charged yet.
Commenting on the arrest, Pashinian said: “I think that this first of all demonstrates the consistent work of the Special Investigative Service.”
Pashinian claimed that the former Armenian authorities systematically tried to cover up the killings. “We all realize that what happened in the course of the last ten years was not an investigation and that everything was done to cover up all evidence … In these circumstances the SIS managed to reach a point where a concrete individual was arrested. I just experienced very emotional moments when I heard that news [of the arrest,]” he told reporters.
“Since we are only talking about a detention, we don’t know yet whether or not an accusation will be brought and how it will go,” he said. “But all March 1 killings must obviously be solved.”
Petrosian is the first person facing prosecution in connection with the deaths. It is not yet known whether he admits responsibility for the murder of the protester.
The violence erupted as security forces broke up opposition protests against alleged fraud in a presidential election held in February 2008. The resulting casualties included not only the eight protesters but also an officer and a soldier of interior troops.
The former authorities accused the opposition of organizing the “mass disturbances” in a bid to seize power. They jailed dozens of opposition figures, including Pashinian, on corresponding charges denied by the latter.
The SIS radically changed the official version of events shortly after last year’s “velvet revolution” which brought Pashinian to power. It charged former President Robert Kocharian and three retired army generals with illegally using the Armenian armed forces against the protesters and thus overthrowing the constitutional order in February-March 2008. All four men, who went on trial last month, deny the accusations.