Officer Charged With Using ‘Excessive Force’ in Post-election Clashes

Armenia Election ProtestYEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Investigators in Armenia have moved to charge a senior police officer involved in the dispersal of last year’s post-election demonstration with exceeding his official powers.

According to a report issued by the Special Investigation Service (SIS) late last week, Gegham Harutiunian, who is in particular charged with undue use of a rubber baton against a citizen in Yerevan’s central Republic Square on the morning of March 1, 2008, has been confined to the limits of Yerevan pending further investigation and trial.

“The search for the citizen against whom the police officer used violence is continuing,” the SIS said in its statement.

One of the March 1 protesters, Vahagn Hayotsian, who claims that violence was used against him as well, says he has not submitted a complaint against any of the policemen who he says beat him on that day because he “couldn’t recognize any.”

“During the clashes I never saw a police officer with an uncovered face. They all wore riot gear. It is possible to submit a complaint against a concrete person. They all must be tried. They know who participated in it. I was attacked by five. If they don’t punish other policemen, why punish this one?” said Hayotsian.

David Arakelian, a police worker in the past who like Hayotsian was arrested and later tried and convicted for committing violence against a police worker, says it is not difficult for investigators to establish who had abused their authority while on duty.

Meanwhile, the body in charge of the investigation has appealed to all citizens who were eyewitnesses or suffered from police action on March 1-2, 2008 to turn to law-enforcement agencies and provide relevant information.

Lusine Sahakian, a lawyer for a number of detainees in the March 1-related cases, says, however, that the SIS would find no crime in the action of police against several high-profile figures despite their numerous applications to the body.

The lawyer sees the possibility of amnestying the offenders in accordance with the bill approved by the legislature in June behind the greater willingness of investigators to find offenders among police officers.


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