YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — A Yerevan court has approved a fresh arrest warrant against the man who led a criminal investigation into the 2008 post-election violence in Armenia during former President Serzh Sarkisian’s rule.
The former official, Vahagn Harutiunian, was charged in late October with forging factual evidence to cover up the Armenian army’s involvement in the deadly breakup of opposition protests staged in the wake of a disputed presidential election. He left Armenia for Russia in July, ostensibly to receive medical treatment, and apparently remains there.
On November 2, a court of first instance in the Armenian capital allowed the Special Investigative Service (SIS) to arrest Harutiunian pending investigation. The Court of Appeals annulled the arrest warrant on December 13, however.
Shortly afterwards, Harutiunian was also charged with two counts of abuse of power. According to an SIS spokeswoman, Marina Ohanjanian, the district court again sanctioned the former SIS investigator’s arrest on December 30.
Harutiunian rejected the initial accusation leveled against him as “unfounded, illegal and fabricated” when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service by phone on November 1. He insisted that his team of investigators never found any evidence of illegal actions taken by the Armenian military during the 2008 unrest, which left eight protesters and two police servicemen dead.
The SIS completely changed the official version of events following last spring’s mass protests that toppled Sarkisian. It now says that Sarkisian’s outgoing predecessor, Robert Kocharian, illegally ordered army units into the streets of Yerevan before declaring a state of emergency on March 1, 2008.
Kocharian was arrested on December 7 on charges of overthrowing Armenia’s constitutional order. The former president denies them, saying that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian is waging a political “vendetta” against him.
Pashinian was a key speaker at the 2008 protests. The former journalist subsequently spent about two years in prison for organizing what the SIS used to describe as “mass disturbances.” He strongly denied those charges.