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Fired Armenian Police Chief Charged With Physical Abuse

GYUMRI, Armenia -- The recently fired police chief of Armenia's second city of Gyumri has been charged with abuse and mistreatment, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Armenia's Special Investigative Service (SIS) said former police chief Shirak Shahnazarian will be tried for an incident that occurred in his office in July.

The SIS said on November 20 that Shahnazarian verbally abused and beat a Gyumri resident who visited his office with a complaint.

The person, identified as G. Varpetian, was kept in police custody for seven hours before being freed, a report said.

The SIS added that Shahnazarian has been charged under an article of Armenia's Criminal Code that deals with abuse of power "accompanied by use of violence, weapons, or special means."

Such crimes are punishable by between two and six years in jail.

The SIS did not specify whether the criminal case was the sole reason for Shahnazarian's dismissal as chief of Gyumri police earlier this month.

The case is a rare example of senior law-enforcement officials being sacked and prosecuted for alleged mistreatment.

Police abuse of criminal suspects and others has long been widespread in Armenia.

It is regarded by local and international human rights groups as the most frequent rights violation in the country.