Senior Armenian Police Official Heading Anti-Corruption Fight Murdered

Colonel Gevorg Mherian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Colonel Gevorg Mherian, a deputy chief of the Armenian police, was gunned down outside his Yerevan home late on Tuesday.

Police sources said Mherian, 33, was repeatedly shot in the head by unknown gunmen as he left an apartment building in the capital where he lived with his family. A senior medical official told local Kentron television that he was dead by the time an ambulance arrived at the scene.

Dozens of police and other law-enforcement officials, including Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian, rushed there shortly after the murder. The police did not immediately issue any statemen’s.

Mherian was appointed as deputy police chief in July as part of a reshuffle of the higher echelon of Armenia’s security apparatus initiated by President Serzh Sarkisian. He had previously served as an adviser to former President Robert Kocharian monitoring the implementation of the Armenian government’s strategy of combating corruption.

Armenia’s three main law-enforcement bodies launched Wednesday a joint investigation into the shock murder of Gevorg Mherian, a deputy chief of the national police, officials said on Wednesday.

A statement by the office said its Special Investigative Service (SIS) as well as the Armenian police and the National Security Service (NSS) swiftly formed a special team tasked with solving the crime. It said the SIS opened on Tuesday night a criminal case under two articles of Armenia’s Criminal Code. One of them deals with murders of individuals committed as a result of their work.

Hector Sardarian, a senior SIS official leading the probe, told RFE/RL that the investigators believe Mherian was most probably gunned down because of his “professional activities.” He declined to elaborate.

Sardarian also suggested that the lone gunman who shot the police official was not an experienced killer. He argued that the investigators found eight cartridge cases at the scene of the crime, which suggests that half of the gunshots fired from close range missed the target. The gun used in the shooting did not have a silencer, added Sardarian.

Meanwhile, the chief of the Armenian police, Alik Sargsian, briefed Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan on details of the inquiry on Wednesday as he presented an annual report on his agency’s activities. Sargsian described Mherian’s murder as a “serious blow to the police” and said the investigators are working hard to identify and punish the guilty.

Both the prime minister and parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian expressed their condolences to Mherian’s family. In a written statement, Abrahamian condemned the “brutal crime” and urged the law-enforcement bodies to take “all necessary measures” to solve it.

President Serzh Sarkisian on Thursday strongly condemned the murder of a deputy chief of the Armenian police and said it may have had to do with the latter’s anti-corruption activities.

Speaking at an emergency meeting with Armenia’s top security officials, Sarkisian demanded detailed information about the course of the criminal investigation into what he called a crime directed against the country’s “entire law-enforcement system.”

“Gevorg Mherian’s activities in recent months were focused on the struggle to eliminate corruption mechanisms, and we must realize this as well,” he said, according to the presidential press service. “We must realize and give an adequate answer. Our actions must stem from this fact too.”

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