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Armenian Parliament Sets Date For Unveiling Results Of Clash Probe

Armenian parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian

Armenian parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian

Meeting on August 22 with members of the parliament ad hoc committee established in June 2008 to investigate the circumstances in which 10 people died in post-presidential election clashes in Yerevan on March 1-2, 2008, parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian noted that they are legally required to present their final report no later than September 15.

Deputy parliament speaker Samvel Nikoyan, who chairs the ad hoc committee, was quoted the same day as saying the final report will be unveiled at some point between September 14 and 17.

On August 21, the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) released a statement accusing the ad hoc committee of stalling. The statement also called on members of the alternative fact-finding group set up last fall by President Serzh Sarkisian with the aim of independently evaluating the conclusions of the ad hoc commission to resume its activities and publish its own findings.

Sarkisian dissolved the fact-finding group in early June after Vahe Stepanian, its nonpartisan chairman, quit, complaining that irreconcilable differences between its pro-government and opposition members made further cooperation between them impossible. In late June, the HAK raised the possibility of setting up its own group of experts to carry on where the fact-finding commission had left off.

The fact-finding group's first report was leaked to the press in late April. It called into question police claims that one of the police casualties, Captain Hamlet Tadevosian, was killed by a grenade thrown by a protester. Its two opposition members have made public additional data on two occasions since then.

First, they named interior troop officers who killed three protesters by mishandling riot equipment, including tear gas grenades. Then in a lengthy newspaper article on July 29, they sought to disprove the official theory that Tigran Abgarian, a serviceman with the Armenian interior troops, died of a bullet wound in the neck fired by a protester from a long distance.

The two accused Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS), which has led the criminal inquiry into the violence, of failing to properly investigate, and of obscuring the circumstances of, Abgarian's death. They claimed that he was shot at point-blank range, pointing to the size and nature of his wounds as recorded by forensic experts

The SIS immediately dismissed those allegations as "illogical" and "absurd." But Stepanian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that the article "contains some essential material which was not previously made available to us by the Special Investigative Service … I find it hard to assess its objectivity and credibility. But one thing is evident to me. This document needs to be seriously examined not only by the SIS, but also by Samvel Nikoyan's commission."

Nikoyan was quoted on August 22, however, as predicting that the opposition will be disappointed by his committee's findings, as the committee was "unable" to answer key questions, and so "the circumstances of the deaths of those killed on March 1-2 continues to remain in the dark."

On July 2, Nikoyan had been quoted as saying that his commission has sufficient material to answer most of the lingering questions about the violence in Yerevan. "The only question which the commission can not fully answer today is issues related to the circumstances of the deaths," he was quoted as telling "Hayots ashkhar."

A second commission member, Artsvik Minasian of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun, said on August 22 the investigation into the circumstances of the 10 deaths was complicated by what he termed the "unsatisfactory" work of the SIS. Stepanian for his part said he has no hopes the report will shed any light on the 10 deaths as the commission made no effort to determine precisely what weapons the police used. He said the SIS could easily have provided that information, but clearly had "no desire" to do so.

On August 21, Armenian national police service head Major-General Alik Sargsian denied that either Tadevosian or Abgarian was inadvertently killed by their fellow servicemen. He warned opposition media against seeking to make the police a "scapegoat" by publishing information incriminating individual police officers, and he dismissed as lacking any supporting evidence the recent claims by the two opposition members of the disbanded fact-finding group that the police were responsible for the fatalities.

Sargsian added that internal investigations have been conducted into reports that some of the deaths resulted from police mishandling riot equipment.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.