Investigators Identify March 1 Shooters

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Law-enforcement authorities have identified security officers, who shot and killed opposition protesters during the post-election clashes in Yerevan, and are now determining whether the use of lethal force was justified, a senior investigator said on Tuesday.

According to the Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement agency subordinated to Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General, three of the civilian victims were killed by tear gas grenades fired by riot police from a very short distance. Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian claimed earlier this month that the investigators still do not know which police officers mishandled the riot equipment.

Neither Hovsepian nor any other law-enforcement official has so far publicly commented on the circumstances in which the five other civilians died. In an interview with RFE/RL, Vahagn Harutiunian, a senior SIS official leading the official inquiry into the unrest, said the investigators have finally identified and questioned officers who shot them.

"All of them are known," he said. "All of them have been interrogated. The investigation is continuing."

Citing "the interests of the investigation," Harutiunian refused to reveal the identity of the shooters or specify which security agency they work for.

"Use of firearms [by a law-enforcement officer] is not necessarily a crime," said Harutiunian. "If firearms are used for preventing crimes or other legitimate purposes that is naturally not punishable by criminal law.

"But that doesn’t mean we rule out the possibility of an unjustified use of firearms. The matter is being investigated."

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