Armenian President Robert Kocharian has dismissed several of his bodyguards for beating a man to death. The case has political ramifications both internal and external.
The incident occurred on the night of September 24-25 in Yerevan’s Aragast pub, a favorite haunt of the president in his spare time. That night, Kocharian was there in the company of Charles Aznavour, the world-famous French singer of Armenian descent. The victim, 43-year-old Poghos Poghossian, had attempted to talk to the guests, but was shoved aside by the bodyguards, who then took Poghossian to the men’s room, beat him and left him there. Shortly afterward, pub patrons found Poghossian’s corpse in the same place, bearing the marks of violence.
Yerevan media are treating the case as a murder. The Internal Affairs Ministry’s press service claims, however, that Poghossian died of a heart attack. Kocharian has ordered that same ministry, and the Prosecutor’s Office, to identify the “real culprits.” Both of those institutions, however, have a dismal track record in investigating murders traceable to the state apparatus. Unresolved cases include those in which prosecutors themselves, and police officials up to the rank of deputy ministers and generals have been murdered in internecine feuds.
Coincidentally with Poghossian’s death, the parliament decided to schedule for October 8 a hearing into the stalled proceedings against former Internal Affairs Minister Vanno Siradeghian, who has fled abroad. The current authorities suspect Siradeghian of having commissioned several killings through his subordinates in that ministry.
Poghos Poghossian is unrelated to Khachig Poghossian, the head of the Oversight Committee attached to the prime minister’s office, who was assassinated on September 11 in Yerevan. Poghos Poghossian was a citizen of Georgia and a resident of the Ninotsminda district, one of two Armenian-majority districts in Georgia’s province of Javakheti. Most recently, an irredentist issue is being made of Javakheti, primarily by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutiun (ARF). Apparently within that context, the ARF has taken up the Poghos Poghossian case and is calling in parliament and in the press for severe punishment of the perpetrators.
At ARF’s initiative earlier this week, the Armenian delegation requested the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to inspect Javakheti in order to “defend the rights” of Armenians there. The ARF is a conditional and sometimes critical supporter of Kocharian. Javakheti is one issue on which they clearly disagree, however. The president and government underscore the importance of good-neighborly relations with Georgia, a country that provides a vital transit route between Armenia and the outside world. Nor can a plausible case be made that Georgia violates the rights of Armenians. Yet Kocharian and the government seem content to tolerate the ARF’s irredentism because they need its support on many other issues.
Aznavour, the unwilling bystander to all this, was visiting Armenia on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of its independence. He is a generous donor to Armenia, but has publicly criticized its political establishment for corruption and misrule, and had declined to visit the country in recent years (Arminfo, Noyan-Tapan, Iravunk, September 26).
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