YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The presidential commission on human rights urged law-enforcement authorities to bar military prosecutors from further investigating last year’s bloody attack on the Armenian parliament over mounting allegations that they subject suspects to physical and psychological abuse.
After meetings with the four key suspects of the case–the commission submitted its conclusions to President Robert Kocharian–recommending that the Armenian prosecutor-general’s office take over the politically-charged probe.
The presidential body is headed by Paruyr Hayrikian–a prominent Soviet-era dissident and leading politician. Its members were allowed to meet with Nairi Hunanian–the leader of the armed gang that gunned down eight senior officials in the parliament chamber on October 27.
The three other men they talked to in jail –presidential adviser Aleksan Harutiunian–parliament deputy Mushegh Movsisian and a deputy director of Armenian state television–Harutiun Harutiunian–were accused of complicity in the killings but deny the charges.
One of the commission members–Hovannes Asrian–said all of the accused claimed that they were beaten up and faced threats and "psychological pressure" from the investigators led by chief military prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian.
The allegations of mistreatment in custody were earlier made by the lawyers of the suspects. Jahangirian has repeatedly dismissed them as "defense tactics."
The prosecutors’ handling of the case was at the center of a recent row in Armenia’s leadership–with Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan and other leaders of the governing Unity bloc accusing the chief of Kocharian’s staff of obstructing the investigation. Sargsyan–whose brother and predecessor was killed in the bloodbath–has said he fully trusts Jahangirian’s team.
But in a move that effectively endorses the attacks on the investigators–Hayrikian’s commission declared that they must be kept from continuing the probe. It also called for a public oversight over the criminal proceedings.
However–under Armenian law the president of the republic has no authority to decide who should run criminal cases. The current prosecutor-general–Boris Nazarian–is believed to be loyal to Sargsyan and is unlikely to heed the recommendations.
Investigation into the Oct. 27th massacre in parliament has been a focus of heated political tension in Armenia in recent weeks.