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Armenian Officer Fired, Detained Over Death At Base

Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian
Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian
YEREVAN -- An Armenian Army colonel has been fired and detained following the death of a young man he allegedly assaulted on New Year's Eve, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

A ministry spokesman said Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian signed an executive order today dismissing Sergei Karapetian and two other officers from their positions.

An official at the ministry's Investigative Service told RFE/RL later in the day that Karapetian had been detained but not formally charged.

Karapetian commanded a unit stationed near the northeastern town of Ijevan where the December 31 incident took place.

Doctors at Yerevan's Surp Grigor Lusavorich hospital told RFE/RL that 20-year-old Taron Yengibarian died today from severe head injuries sustained in the incident.

Yengibarian was among a group of four young men who reportedly clashed with Karapetian and several other officers late on December 31 while visiting, apparently without authorization, a friend serving at the base.

According to the men's relatives, Karapetian insulted them and shot at their car before having them forcibly taken to his second-floor office. They said the young men jumped out of the office window to escape and were hospitalized with serious injuries. Yengibarian suffered a fractured skull.

Military investigators have not confirmed or denied this version of events, saying only that there was a "dispute between the unit's commander and a group of civilians."

They have also said that a criminal investigation is being conducted under an article of the Criminal Code dealing with hooliganism.

Several other officers were arrested late last year in connection with a spate of noncombat deaths and other violent incidents within the army ranks.

One of them was sentenced to three years in prison last month for beating and humiliating two conscripts in a videotaped incident publicized on the Internet.

Amid a barrage of media criticism, Ohanian has repeatedly pledged a tougher crackdown on army crimes, while maintaining that their number has considerably fallen over the past decade.