YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–An Armenian army officer has been arrested on charges of badly ill-treating one of his soldiers—a crime which carries up to five years in prison, military investigators said on Friday.
The arrest stems from the October 28 beating of Erik Grigorian, an 18-year-old conscript who served in an army unit stationed near Yerevan. He was taken to a military hospital with a broken nose and other serious injuries.
According to Grigorian’s relatives, the soldier was beaten up by the unit’s deputy commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Armen Bareghamian, for oversleeping in the morning. They say the beating lasted for more than an hour.
An official at the Armenian Defense Ministry’s Investigative Service told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Bareghamian was taken into custody late on Thursday and will be formally charged this weekend. The investigators will ask a Yerevan court to allow them to keep him under arrest pending trial, the official said.
Bareghamian was already charged with beating up another serviceman, Bagrat Yeghishian, this summer. A criminal investigation into that incident was completed last month. No dates have been set yet for the start of the officer’s trial.
Artur Sakunts, a human rights activist dealing with army crime, welcomed his arrest but said it is long overdue. “They should have treated him very strictly right from the beginning,” Sakunts told RFE/RL. “They should have relieved him of his duties and put him under arrest immediately after the previous incident.”
The Defense Ministry attributed its decision not to even suspend Bareghamian before the October 28 beating to the “presumption of innocence.”
The ministry’s Investigative Service also announced on Wednesday that it has sent to court a criminal case against another officer facing similar charges. Major Sasun Galstian was arrested in late September following the emergence of an Internet video that showed him physically abusing and humiliating two soldiers. Galstian remains under pre-trial arrest.
The Defense Ministry initially questioned the veracity of the Youtube clip and said those who posted it on the Internet are keen to “discredit” the Armed Forces. But Colonel-General Mikael Harutiunian, a former defense minister now serving as President Serzh Sarkisian’s chief military adviser, defended them. He said the scandal sparked by the video could actually help the Armenian military combat chronic hazing and other abuses within its ranks.