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Former Armenian Police Chief Found Shot Dead

A former chief of the Armenian police, Hayk Harutiunian, has been found shot to death in his home, law-enforcement authorities said on Tuesday.

Armenia’s Investigative Committee said Harutiunian had a gunshot wound to his head when police officers discovered his body in his country house in Bjni, a village 45 kilometers north of Yerevan, on Monday night. They also found a pistol and a spent cartridge lying next to him, read a statement released by the committee.

The statement added that the law-enforcement agency is conducting an investigation into a suicide resulting from threats, humiliation or negligence. Investigators have already questioned “witnesses” and established that Harutiunian “consumed a considerable amount of alcohol” prior to his death, it said.

Harutiunian ran the Armenian police from 1999-2008, during former President Robert Kocharian’s rule. He headed two other security agencies after Kocharian was succeeded by Serzh Sarkisian in April 2008. The 63-year-old had held no state positions since being dismissed in 2014 as chief of a Justice Ministry division managing Armenia’s prisons.

Harutiunian was a key witness in an ongoing investigation into the March 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan, which left eight opposition protesters and two police servicemen dead. Unlike Kocharian and several other former senior officials, he was not arrested or indicted following last year’s “Velvet Revolution” which toppled Sarkisian.

Citing anonymous sources, two Armenian news websites alleged that moments before his death Harutiunian complained to another person that he is being pressured by the authorities to give false incriminating testimony against Kocharian and a retired senior police officer.

A spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, Naira Harutiunian, dismissed those claims as untrue. She said at the same time that investigators have interrogated an unnamed person who “was with [Harutiunian] at the site of the incident.” The latter assured them that the former police chief did not allege any pressure exerted on him in connection with the 2008 unrest probe or any other issue, Harutiunian wrote on Facebook.

In a separate post, Harutiunian announced that the Investigative Committee has moved to question the authors of the two news reports about “circumstances of the case subject to clarification.”

Meanwhile, residents of Bjni who knew Harutiunian personally expressed shock at the news of his death. The mayor of the village where Harutiunian is understood to have spent most of his time in recent years said he would never expect the police general to commit suicide.

“I can’t imagine him doing that,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “He was not a weak guy, he was a very tough guy.”