Former military conscripts Arman Stepanyan and Babken Gaboyan, who were arrested in 2013 on suspicion of inciting fellow serviceman Manuchar Manucharyan's alleged suicide, pleaded not guilty Monday to the indictment. Concurrently, Ruben Martirosyan, an expert criminologist with the Peace Dialogue NGO, also considers the official version of Manucharyan's death unreliable. In a conversation with Epress.am yesterday, he expressed confidence that sergeant Stepanyan and junior sergeant Gaboyan were not related to the “conscript's murder” and that the charges against them were groundless.
At a June 6 hearing in Arabkir and Qanaker-Zeytun district court, Gaboyan denied having had any sort of conflicts with the deceased. And although the indictment may state otherwise, the accused also denied the claim that prior to Manucharyan's death he had allegedly beaten the deceased on several occasions. Accused Stepanyan, for his part, denied having exerted pressure on Manucharyan at any point during their joint military service. Both of the accused, who've been behind bars for nearly three years, refused to answer further prosecution questions.
Speaking to reporters following the hearing, Stepanyan's lawyer, Norayr Norikyan, said none of the witnesses had confirmed the accusation; on the contrary, they had testified to seeing Manucharyan telling a joke to fellow servicemen and being in a good mood only an hour before his death. In addition, the lawyer stated, witnesses had denied prosecution allegations that Stepanyan had punched Manucharyan repeatedly for several minutes in front of other soldiers' eyes.
Back in 2013, Ruben Martirosyan, a representative of Manucharyan's legal successor, insisted that Manucharyan had actually been murdered and the suicide story was cooked up by the investigative body. Martirosyan had said, inter alia, that the weapon with which Manucharyan had allegedly killed himself had no fingerprints on it. In a Monday conversation with Epress.am, the expert stood by his convictions, stressing that over the years he had obtained even more supporting evidence.
On April 23, 2016, Martirosyan filed a crime report with Armenia's General Prosecutor Gevorg Kostanyan, according to which, “as a result of a unilateral preliminary investigation, which was conducted in gross violation of the Criminal Procedure Code, a premeditated murder has been classified as suicide.”
According to the official report, Manucharyan was found with three gunshot wounds through his chin while on guard duty. However, Martirosyan noted that a subsequent examination of the soldier's uniform had found a 5mm hole in the back of the right pant leg that had burn traces on its edges. The criminologist is therefore convinced that the damage discovered on Manucharyan's trousers is a characteristic of a gunshot.
“The preliminary investigation body considered it proven that Manucharyan had committed suicide through three self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head; however, this fourth wound, which Manucharyan couldn't have inflicted on himself, proves that he was deliberately killed, and that forensic experts A. Hambardzumyan and G. Avetisyan committed a crime which provides for punishment under Article 338 of Armenia's Criminal Code (perjury or false expert conclusions),” Martirosyan said in his appeal to Kostanyan.
The criminologist added that forensic expert Hambardzumyan later said in court that he had not examined Manucharyan's trousers, which, according to Martirosyan, “is also a criminally punishable lie.” Hence, the representative of the deceased's legal successor motioned to the General Prosecutor to look into these assertions and, if proven true, to subject the two forensic experts to criminal liability.