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Armenian Police Face More Abuse Claims

Twenty-four-year-old Vahan Khalafian. who died in police custody

Twenty-four-year-old Vahan Khalafian. who died in police custody

Armenian police are facing more torture allegations stemming from a criminal investigation that led to a suspicious death in police custody, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Relatives of David Gyulumian of Charentsavan, a small town about 40 kilometers north of Yerevan, say that he, too, was ill-treated by police officers and forced to confess to a theft committed there early last month.

Gyulumian, Vahan Khalafian, and two other men were arrested on April 13 on suspicion of involvement in the crime.

Khalafian, 24, died in still unclear circumstances several hours later. The Armenian police acknowledged on April 30 that he was beaten up before allegedly committing suicide.

Gyulumian's mother, Armik Gharibian, told RFE/RL that the 35-year-old claimed to have been forced to admit his guilt under duress when she visited him in Yerevan's Nubarashen prison several days after the arrest.

According to his aunt, Alvard Gyulumian, he said: "I could either die like Vahan or sign it; there was no other option."

Both women deny Gyulumian's involvement in the crime. They also allege that local police had for years forced him to operate as a police informant through threats and blackmail.

Law-enforcement authorities denied the torture claims.

Armenia's Special Investigative Service (SIS), which is conducting an inquiry into Khalafian's death, told RFE/RL that Gyulumian assured SIS investigators in late April that "nobody subjected him to torture."

The law-enforcement body also provided a copy of the results of a medical examination of Gyulumian conducted by forensic experts shortly after Khalafian's death. The document says that they found "no objective signs of bodily injuries."