Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) has again asked a court in Yerevan to allow it to arrest a former senior SIS official who led a criminal investigation into the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.
Vahagn Harutiunian resigned as deputy chief of the SIS and left for Russia, ostensibly for medical treatment, in July 2018, three months after Armenia’s “Velvet Revolution.” Harutiunian was first accused in October 2018 of forging factual evidence to cover up the Armenian army’s involvement in the violence.
Two months later the SIS also charged him with two counts of abuse of power also stemming from the long-running probe of the 2008 unrest. Harutiunian rejected all accusations leveled against him as baseless and illegal.
The law-enforcement agency went on to request court authorizations for his pre-trial arrest. Two Armenian courts rejected these petitions in February and June this year.
The SIS filed yet another petition last week, saying that the accusations have been “complemented” with new facts. A Yerevan court has since been holding hearings on the matter.
Harutiunian’s lawyer, Mihran Poghosian, insisted on Monday that the SIS made only “editorial changes” in the indictment and is therefore not allowed to again demand his client’s arrest. “The SIS investigator has not demonstrated the so-called new circumstances,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Poghosian also claimed that his client is still undergoing medical treatment in Russia and will return to Armenia “after sorting out his health and personal issues.”
In a letter to Prosecutor-General Davtian sent last month, Harutiunian expressed readiness to return to Armenia and be questioned by the SIS if law-enforcement authorities remove him from their most wanted list. Davtian’s office rejected that condition.
Facing similar charges is Armenia’s former Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian, who also lives in Moscow now. Kostanian denies the accusations. On December 4 a district court in the Armenian capital issued an arrest warrant for him requested by the SIS.
Eight protesters and two police servicemen died in Yerevan on March 1-2, 2008 as security forces broke up opposition demonstrations against alleged fraud in the February 2008 presidential election.
The former Armenian authorities accused the opposition of organizing the “mass disturbances” in a bid to seize power. They jailed dozens of opposition figures, including the country’s current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, on corresponding charges.
The SIS radically changed the official version of events shortly after the 2018 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. All four men, who went on trial in May, deny the accusations.