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Key Witness In Ex-Police Chief’s Death Probe Leaves Armenia


Armenia -- National police chief Hayk Harutiunian at an official ceremony in Yerevan, April 16, 2003.

The key witness in an ongoing investigation into the recent mysterious death of a former chief of the Armenian police has left the country, law-enforcement authorities said on Thursday.

General Hayk Harutiunian, who headed the national police service from 1999-2008, was found shot to death in his country house on September 24. After questioning an unnamed person who “was with him at the scene of the incident” Armenia’s Investigative Committee suggested that Harutiunian most probably committed suicide.

A spokeswoman for the committee told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the “eyewitness” assured investigators that they “will return to the country in just a few days’ time.” She insisted that the witness’s absence from the country will not have a negative impact on the investigation.

“All investigative actions requiring the presence of the witness have been taken and the investigating body has acquired all the evidence relevant to the criminal case,” said the official. Investigators are now awaiting final results of forensic tests conducted as part of the probe, she added.

Two Armenian news websites claimed late last month that moments before his death Harutiunian complained to another person that he is being pressured by the authorities to give false incriminating testimony against former President Robert Kocharian and a retired senior police officer indicted in connection with the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. The Investigative Committee was quick to dismiss those reports.

Two days after Harutiunian’s death, another law-enforcement body, the Special Investigative Service, charged Alik Sargsian, the man who succeeded Harutiunian as police chief in April 2008, with covering up what the SIS now describes as security forces’ illegal crackdown on opposition protesters in February-March 2008. Sargsian flatly denied the accusations.

The SIS had repeatedly interrogated Harutiunian as a witness in the case. It claimed on September 26 that he too had signed “official documents containing false information and records” about the 2008 crackdown.

Former President Kocharian is currently under arrest, standing trial, along with three other former officials, on coup charges. He rejects them as politically motivated.

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