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Armenia: President's Bodyguard Convicted Of Manslaughter

Yerevan, 21 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A court in Armenia today gave a one-year suspended prison sentence to a bodyguard of President Robert Kocharian on a manslaughter charge. The bodyguard, Aghamal Harutiunian, was convicted of a "negligent homicide" of an ethnic Armenian man from Georgia last September. The man, Poghos Poghosian, was found dead in the bathroom of a popular Yerevan cafe shortly after Kocharian left its premises with his entourage.

Poghosian is said to have greeted the president in a way his bodyguards found too familiar. Some witnesses said the man was assaulted by several men who looked like security agents. But the court today endorsed the state prosecutors' theory that Poghosian died accidentally in a one-on-one fist fight with Harutiunian.

Local and international human rights groups have strongly condemned the Armenian authorities' handling of the case. The New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a statement in December accusing Kocharian of reneging on his pledge to bring to justice all perpetrators of the crime.