Law-enforcement bodies investigating the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan did not pressure a former chief of the Armenian police, who was found dead on Monday, to testify against former President Robert Kocharian, Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian said on Wednesday.
Hayk Harutiunian, who headed the national police service during the deadly unrest, was found shot to death in his country house. Armenia’s Investigative Committee suggested on Tuesday that he most probably committed suicide.
Two Armenian news websites claimed that moments before his death Harutiunian complained to another person that he is being pressured by the authorities to give false incriminating testimony against Kocharian and a retired senior police officer indicted in connection with the dramatic events of February-March 2008. The Investigative Committee was quick to dismiss those reports.
Davtian similarly described them as being the result of an “order” issued by forces not named by him. “Every person familiar with me knows that that is impossible,” he told reporters. “The post of prosecutor-general does not allow that in the legal and moral senses.”
Davtian said that the Special Investigative Service (SIS), which is leading the probe of the 2008 violence, also could not have bullied any witnesses.
Harutiunian, 63, had been questioned by the SIS as a key witness. In his testimony publicized by Armenian media, the police general defended security forces’ actions during the March 1-2, 2008 clashes with opposition supporters demanding the rerun of a disputed presidential election. Eight protesters and two police servicemen were killed in the clashes that broke out in Yerevan.
Citing the bloodshed, Kocharian declared a state of emergency and ordered army units into the city center. The SIS and prosecutors say that this and other orders issued to the Armenian military amounted to an “overthrow of the constitutional order.” The arrested former president, who went on trial along with two retired army generals in May, rejects the accusation as politically motivated.
Davtian said that Harutiunian’s death could have a serious impact on the high-profile criminal case. He argued that the former police was due to testify at Kocharian’s trial. “Questions were going to be asked by prosecutors, defense lawyers and the judge in the courtroom,” said the chief prosecutor.