YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian military said on Thursday that it has formally dismissed two mid-level army officers who were recently charged with extorting money from their subordinates, RFE/RL’s Armenian service reported Thursday.
Military investigators say Artur Karapetian, the deputy commander of an army regiment stationed in the southern Ararat province, illegally collected 1 million drams ($2800) ostensibly for buying a computer for his commander.
The other officer, Vartan Martirosian, who commanded a battalion in the same unit, stands accused of forcing soldiers serving there on a contractual basis to borrow loans from commercial banks and give them to him.
Both men were arrested in mid-October only to be released on bail by a local court two weeks later. Armenia’s Court of Appeals on Friday rejected military prosecutors’ appeal against their release. The prosecutors plan to challenge the decision at the higher Court of Cassation.
A spokesman for the Armenian Defense Ministry was quoted by RFE/RL as saying that the two officers have been formally relieved of their military duties and will be discharged from the armed forces altogether if they are convicted at their upcoming trial.
For its part, the ministry’s Investigative Service revealed that a third officer serving in Ararat, Arsen Nersisian, was also charged in connection with the extortion case last month. Nersisian was not put under pre-trial arrest.
The sackings are the latest in a series of punitive measures taken by the Defense Ministry against several dozen army servicemen following a recent spate of non-combat deaths and other violent incidents in the army ranks. The military and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian in particular have been under public pressure to tackle chronic army abuse in earnest.
More than a dozen officers and soldiers were arrested in August on charges of ill-treating two other servicemen found dead in still unclear circumstances. Two other officers were arrested recently for beating and humiliating conscripts. One of them is the deputy commander of an army unit deployed near Yerevan.