Chief Prosecutor Rules Out Suicide in Markarian Case

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–RFE/RL–BBC)–Armenia’s Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepian announced Friday that his office was ruling out suicide in investigating this week’s murder of deputy interior minister and commander of interior ministry forces Artsrun Markarian.

Hovsepian outlined that there were no inconsistencies between the conclusions of his office and that of the interior and national security ministry–whose head–Serge Sarkissian had announced that Markarian could not have committed suicide.

Hovsepian explained that all possibilities needed to be investigated–adding that currently the investigation was a murder investigation–and the likelihood of suicide was ruled out.

The prosecutor also announced that Markarian’s two bodyguards–who were with him during the shooting–were still being questioned by authorities and refused to comment on whether there were other suspects in the investigation.

He stressed that a link between the murder and an failed assassination attempt on Markarian’s life was not yet established.

Markarian was shot at his residence last year–but escaped with injuries to his leg.

Hayastani Hanrapetutyun quoted interior minister Sarkissian as telling the private Armenia TV channel on Thursday that he will solve Markarian’s murder or submit his resignation.

Sarkissian said his ministry has requested "professional assistance" from the US government and FBI officers are ready to join the investigation. A similar request–he said–has been filed to Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin.

In his remarks–the prosecutor general welcomed Sarkissian’s efforts to bring in US and Russian consultants and said that those experts would work with Armenian authorities to resolve the Markarian murder.

Meanwhile–Markarian’s two arrested bodyguards have denied any involvement in his death–a well-informed source revealed to RFE/RL on Thursday.

The source said the bodyguards told investigators that Markarian threatened them with a gun minutes before the tragic incident–still shrouded in mystery.

State prosecutors have said the two bodyguards–arrested Wednesday–were with Markarian until their car stopped late Monday on a highway 15 kilometers north of Yerevan where the latter got off and walked away to urinate. The commander’s body was found the next day on the roadside with two bullets in his chest and head. According to them–the fatal shots were fired from Markarian’s own pistol.

But the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the security men claim Markarian had two pistols and targeted them with one of the weapons after ordering to stop the car. The two say they then tackled their boss–ran away and soon heard two shots which they though were fired in their direction.

The source said–however–that the arrested men remain top suspects in the case as their testimony was not accepted as credible.

Markarian is the third senior official slain in the last six months. He was buried on Thursday in the Yerablur military cemetery on the southern outskirts of Yerevan in the presence of Interior and National Security Minister Sarkissian and Prosecutor-General Hovsepian.

"We are obliged to solve this case," Sarkissian told Armenian state television. He described the general’s death as a "great loss." He categorically dismissed another version of his death currently in circulation–whereby Markarian may have committed suicide.

On Thursday–the BBC reported that Markarian was most likely murdered because he could have served as a witness in an important criminal case–a law-enforcement source told Interfax.

Markarian might have been a witness in the case against Vano Siradeghian–who was a member of parliament as well as former interior minister–former Yerevan mayor and the leader of the Armenian National Movement.

The Prosecutor General’s Office charged Siradeghian with organizing several murders–but parliament refused to strip him of his parliamentary immunity.

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