The 29-year-old pregnant woman, Sona Mnatsakanian, was struck by a police SUV while crossing a street in the center of Yerevan on April 26. The vehicle did not stop after the collision that sparked more opposition calls for Pashinian’s resignation. Its driver, Major Aram Navasardian, was arrested a few hours later.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee charged Navasardian with violating traffic rules but released him shortly afterwards. The law-enforcement agency arrested the policeman again on Thursday after a prosecutor ordered it to also charge him with fleeing the scene and not helping the victim.
It went on to request a court permission to hold him in pre-trial detention. A Yerevan court refused to sanction the arrest, however, forcing the investigators to free Navasardian.
Navasardian denies the accusations leveled against him. His lawyer, Ruben Baloyan, cited on Thursday a government directive allowing government motorcades to move at up to 100 kilometers/hour in Yerevan.
Raffi Aslanian, a lawyer representing the victim’s family, dismissed the argument. “In accordance with Armenia’s law on road safety, the driver was obliged to stop at the scene of the accident and to take the victim to hospital in his or somebody else’s car,” said Aslanian.
Pashinian’s limousine and the six other cars making up his motorcade also drove past the dying woman and did not help her. The prime minister has still not publicly commented on her death.
The deputy chief of Pashinian’s staff, Taron Chakhoyan, claimed on April 27 that the motorcade would have caused a traffic jam and made it harder for an ambulance to reach the victim had it stopped right after the crash.
Opposition figures and other government critics brushed aside that explanation. Some of them blamed Pashinian for the unprecedented accident.