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Opposition Lawmaker Accuses Authorities of Covering Up March 1 Murders

Armenian political authorities are doing everything “to keep the murders of March 1 unsolved,” Armenian National Congress MP Nikol Pashinyan said at the Parliament Tuesday during the discussion of Armenian Defender of Human Rights (Ombudsman) Karen Andreasyan's annual report, which said to this day the deaths of ten people – 2 police officers and 8 civilians – during the dispersal of the mass protests against electoral fraud and demanding re-run of the February 2008 presidential elections have still not been solved.

“Three of the March 1 victims – Armen Farmanyan, Tigran Khachatryan, and Gor Kloyan – were killed by a “Cheryomukha 7″ riot gun. Preliminary investgation has found that this type of special means were only applied by police officers whose identities have been established: RA Police Troops N 10/33 military unit warrant officers Mkrtich Gharibyan and Vardan Sahakyan, as well as Levon Hakobyan and Avetik Atabekyan, officers of the Police Troops' Special Forces. In 2009, these people were charged for a breach of rules for handling weapons, which provides for a 4-10 years imprisonment,” Pashinyan stated. 

However, the four police officers accused of a major crime, as noted by the lawmaker, have not been arrested, while the measure “is widely used in Armenia against perpetrators of lesser crimes.”

“The question then arises as to [how a petty thief would impede the preliminary investigation if at large], and people who've killed Armenian citizens would not. But do not assume that authorities care about these officers. The thing is, if these people are sent to jail and have nothing else to lose, they will give completely different testimonies with all the ensuing consequences.”

The case files, according to Pashinyan, show that more than 4 “Cheryomukha 7” guns were applied that day. Perhaps, the lawmaker alleged, they were used by other, higher ranking officers. “The case has been left hanging in the air for 6 years. The same police officers have written all kinds of nonsense about political prisoners; however, they claim they did not see what happened right before their eyes. Armenian police officers are the 'thuggest' ones there are; they are not one of those who 'write'.”

Recall, on March 1st, 2008, early in the morning, national police and military forces used excessive force and violence to disperse an opposition camp site in Freedom Square. The clashes left 10 people dead and many more wounded on the streets of central Yerevan. To this day, the murders are unsolved and no one has been held accountable for these crimes.