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Authorities Pledge ‘Thorough Review’ of Investigation into March 1 Events

Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) said it will again look into factual evidence, various testimonies and the results of forensic tests related to the dramatic events of March 1-2, 2008. It did not rule the possibility of more such tests to be conducted in the coming months, reports RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

In a separate statement, the SIS also urged Armenians who witnessed those events to provide relevant information to investigators. It pledged to ensure their security and the secrecy of their testimony.

“In effect, the investigation into the case will be thoroughly reviewed,” Vahagn Harutyunyan, head of an SIS team investigating the unrest, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Everything will be done to solve all those incidents,” he said.

Harutyunyan has insisted until now that both his team and other law-enforcement bodies have done their best to clear up all circumstances of vicious clashes between security forces and opposition protesters, which left ten people dead.

Amid a widespread lack of trust in the official investigation, the Armenian authorities agreed later in 2008 to allow a separate, supposedly independent inquiry. It was conducted by a body in which the government and the Armenian opposition had equal representation. The Fact-Finding Group of Experts was disbanded in 2009 due to serious disagreements between its pro-government and opposition members.

Andranik Kocharyan, one of the two opposition members, said on Thursday that Sargsyan’s order should be backed up by “real actions” that would shed more light on the tragedy. In particular, he said, the SIS should interrogate former President Robert Kocharian and other individuals who held senior government positions during the unrest.

Harutyunyan effectively dismissed this idea backed by the opposition Armenian National Congress and its leader, Levon Ter-Petrossian. “I don’t think that the interrogation of Robert Kocharyian or Levon Ter-Petrossian would clarify the circumstances in which those individuals died,” he said.

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Andranik Kocharyan also made the point that the SIS cannot attract more witnesses unless it earns greater public trust. He said many witnesses have been reluctant to come forward for fear of being prosecuted by the investigators.

“The [Special Investigative] Service is ready to receive such people and listen to them,” insisted Harutyunyan. “The service will ensure the secrecy of those individuals.”