Opposition Figure Blasts Unrest Probe

A well-known opposition figure representing the Armenian National Congress (HAK) claimed on Thursday that Armenia’s political leadership is not serious about properly investigating the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.

Andranik Kocharian dismissed a fresh criminal investigation into the unrest that was ordered by President Serzh Sarkisian in late April. He accused investigators from the Special Investigative Service (SIS) of continuing to ignore what he described as evidence of police deliberately shooting and killing opposition protesters on March 1-2, 2008.

“They keep saying that they have interrogated another 100 persons but to no avail,” Kocharian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “But why do they interrogate irrelevant people? Why don’t they interrogate police servicemen who were present there?”

Kocharian was one of the two opposition members of the Fact-Finding Group of Experts, which was formed by Sarkisian later in 2008 to conduct a supposedly independent inquiry into the unrest. The bipartisan body was disbanded several months later amid serious disagreements between its members representing Armenia’s governing coalition and the opposition.

Sarkisian ordered the SIS to conduct a “more meticulous” investigation in response to HAK demands for an “official assurance” that the authorities are committed to punishing those responsible for the deaths of eight protesters and two police personnel. HAK portrayed this and other government concessions as a major achievement.

But Kocharian was very skeptical about government pledges to solve the killings. He said the authorities are disinterested in doing that because individuals responsible for the bloodshed still hold positions “in the higher echelons of power.”

Vahagn Harutiunian, a senior SIS official leading the probe, said on Wednesday that the investigators have still not made major progress. He also said that they have so far been unable to identify police officers shown firing at protesters in an Internet video circulated this month.

“They don’t want to admit the fact that the police deliberately targeted demonstrators,” claimed Kocharian.