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Top Officers in Armenian Town Fired Over Police Custody Death

Armenia's police commander, Alik Sarkisian, has ruled out murder in the case, a view that relatives and activists dispute.
YEREVAN -- A local Armenian police chief and three officers have been fired over the death of man in custody, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The chief of Armenia's police, Alik Sarkisian, told RFE/RL today that Norik Heboyan, the chief of police in the central town of Charentsavan, "had no right to continue to work in the department, since such a negligent situation was also the result of the leadership's lax control."

Twenty four-year-old Vahan Khalafian and several other young men were detained by the town's police on April 13 on suspicion of theft.

Khalafian was found dead later that day in unclear circumstances.

The young man's family and human rights activists maintain he was tortured and subsequently killed by his interrogator or interrogators.

Police initially denied Khalafian had been mistreated, but police chief Sarkisian later acknowledged the man had been beaten before allegedly committing suicide by stabbing himself with a knife.

Sarkisian today repeated that he ruled out murder in the case.

Two police officers remain in custody on charges of abuse of authority in allegedly driving the young man to commit suicide.