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Yerevan Prosecutor Tries to Justify Deadly Use of Cheryomukha-7 on March 1

At the parliamentary hearings on the deadly post-election clashes of March 1-2, 2008, Karen Bisharyan, deputy chief of the department for especially important cases at the Armenian Prosecutor General’s Office, refused on Friday to answer a number of questions, insisting on the need to guarantee the secrecy of the investigation.

Armenia’s National Assembly is today holding hearings on the events of March 1 and the resulting 10 deaths. During the hearings, Bisharyan presented the following statistical data: up to 5000 witnesses were interrogated in the course of the investigation, a number of judicial acts confirmed the organization and participation in mass riots by a large number of people on March 1 and 2. Bisharyan expressed his belief that the investigations has thus far had no transparency issues and that the public as well as a number of interested institutions, including the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. have always had full access to the findings of the investigation.

The official also spoke about the use of Cheryomukha-7, a Russian-made riot gun, on March 1, as a result of which three people were killed: “The complexity of the investigation in this instance is due to the fact that the marks on the fragments of the Cheryomukha-7 extracted during the forensic medical examination from the bodies of Tigran Khachatryan, Armen Farmanyan and Gor Kloyan are unsuitable for weapon identification. It is therefore still unknown what type of weapons wounded and killed these people.”

Andranik Kocharyan, an expert from the March 1 fact-finding group established by Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan’s decree in 2008 and dissolved a year later, countered Bisharyan’s claim, insisting “one would need to try really hard not to determine whose shots were the cause of death, since a weapon is used only by two people.” The persons who fired the Cheryomukha-7 on March 1 are known: corporals Mkrtich Gharibyan (8 pieces) and Vardan Sahakyan (9 pieces) of the 1,033 unit of the police troops, and corporals of the special police

Prosecutor Bisharyan argued that the use of special means was legal, citing a previously unknown Russian study: “The examination carried out in the Special Equipment and Communication scientific and production association of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation found that the use of Cheremukhy-7 in open spaces is not prohibited; it is prohibited only to shoot directly at a person.”

“The prosecutor just tried to justify the application of Cheryomukha-7, claiming that he can be used in open spaces. That is not true. Cheryomukha-7 is intended for driving out terrorist groups from closed hide-outs. The gas leaves its bullet once it hits an obstacle. In our case, bullets were extracted from the bodies of the deceased, which means that these shots were aimed at specific targets. Not only did they shoot at the demonstrators, but to get the gas out, they shot at a barrier, and the bullets got into the people standing next to it. Cheryomukha-7 is not a sniper rifle, and the rules of its usage were violated,” Kocharyan countered again.