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Armenian Official Pledges 'Thorough Review' Of Yerevan Unrest Probe

A woman confronts rows of riot police in downtown Yerevan on March 1, 2008.
A woman confronts rows of riot police in downtown Yerevan on March 1, 2008.
YEREVAN -- Citing instructions from President Serzh Sarkisian, an Armenian law-enforcement agency subordinate to state prosecutors says it will conduct a "thorough review" of its controversial investigation of deadly 2008 postelection violence in Yerevan, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The Special Investigative Service (SIS) said it would again look into factual evidence, various testimony, and the results of forensic tests related to the events of March 1-2, 2008. It did not rule out the possibility of more such tests being conducted in the coming months.

In a separate statement, the SIS also urged people who witnessed the events to provide relevant information to investigators. It pledged to ensure their security and the secrecy of their testimony.

"In effect, the investigation into the case will be thoroughly reviewed," Vahagn Harutiunian, head of an SIS team investigating the unrest, told RFE/RL. "Everything will be done to solve all those incidents."

Harutiunian has insisted that both his team and other law-enforcement bodies have done their best to clear up the circumstances of the violent clashes between security forces and protesters that left 10 people dead and others injured.

Amid a widespread lack of trust in the official investigation, authorities agreed later in 2008 to allow a separate and independent inquiry. It was conducted by a body in which the government and the opposition had equal representation.

But the Fact-Finding Group of Experts was disbanded in 2009 due to serious disagreements between its pro-government and opposition members.

Andranik Kocharian, one of the two opposition members on the inquiry body, said on April 21 that Sarkisian's order should be backed up by "real actions" that would shed more light on the tragedy. In particular, he said, the SIS should interrogate ex-President Robert Kocharian and others who held senior government positions during the unrest.

Harutiunian effectively dismissed that idea, which is backed by the opposition Armenian National Congress and its leader, Levon Ter-Petrossian.

"I don't think that the interrogation of Robert Kocharian or Levon Ter-Petrossian would clarify the circumstances in which [those] individuals died," Harutiunian said.

Andranik Kocharian also told RFE/RL that the SIS cannot attract more witnesses unless it earns greater public trust. He said many witnesses have been reluctant to come forward for fear of being prosecuted by investigators.

"The Special Investigative Service is ready to receive such people and listen to them," said Harutiunian. "The SIS will ensure the secrecy of those individuals."