Two Arrested Over Armenian Serviceman's Death

August 31, 2011
YEREVAN -- An officer and a soldier have been arrested in connection with the latest noncombat death in the Armenian Army, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
The Defense Ministry declined to identify the detainees, citing "the interests of the investigation" and the need to protect their families. It also said that more arrests were possible "in the next few days."
Ministry spokesman Davit Karapetian told RFE/RL that the two were suspected of causing the death of Aghasi Abrahamian, an 18-year-old army conscript.
Abrahamian, who served in an army unit near the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, died shortly after being hospitalized with serious injuries late on August 26. He was reportedly unconscious when he was brought to a military hospital.
The military authorities in Yerevan have launched an investigation under a Criminal Code clause dealing with involuntary manslaughter. Abrahamian's relatives, however, say they believe he was beaten to death, and want the investigators to treat the case accordingly.
According to Karapetian, the two suspects may face more serious accusations.
Karapetian also said the chief military prosecutor, Gevorg Kostanian, and the head of the Defense Ministry's Investigative Department, Armen Harutiunian, arrived at the army unit in question on August 27 to personally lead the inquiry.
Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Gasparian will also travel to Nagorno-Karabakh for that purpose on September 1, he added.
Abrahamian's death has triggered a wave of public indignation. Local media and civic activists renewed their claims that the military command is doing little to tackle hazing and other violent crimes committed in the armed forces.
According to unconfirmed data from Armenian human rights groups, 20 soldiers have been killed by fellow servicemen, committed suicide, or died in various accidents and as a result of illnesses so far this year.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian has not confirmed or denied this figure, saying only that the first half of 2011 saw the lowest number of noncombat deaths since 2007.
Ohanian has pledged repeatedly over the past year to get tougher on army crime.