YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—A recently-sacked Armenian police general was arrested on Thursday on charges of murder cover-up that could land him in prison for up to six years.
Major-General Hovannes Tamamian, the controversial head of the Directorate General of Criminal Investigations at the national police service, was promptly remanded in pre-trial custody.
Tamamian and the police chief of Yerevan’s Arabkir district, Colonel Varuzhan Adamian, were dismissed late last month for what state prosecutors described as a botched police investigation into a murder committed last year.
The prosecutors say police investigators overseen by Tamamian deliberately failed to prosecute the murder perpetrator and charged another individual instead, presumably in return for a massive kickback.
President Serzh Sarkisian expressed outrage at the alleged cover-up when he met with high-ranking police officials last week. He branded Tamamian as an “immoral” person who has shamed the Armenian police.
In a statement, the Office of the Prosecutor-General said Tamamian has been charged with abuse of power that was committed for “mercantile or other personal motives” and resulted in “severe consequences.” A corresponding article of the Armenian Criminal Code carries a prison sentence of between two and six years and a three-year ban from public office for such crimes.
A court in Yerevan allowed the Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement agency subordinated to the prosecutors, to keep Tamamian under arrest pending trial. It was not immediately clear if the police general pleaded guilty to the accusation.
Tamamian has for years been one of Armenia’s most controversial law-enforcement officials. He is thought to have played a major role in police crackdowns on the Armenian opposition ordered by former President Robert Kocharian in 2004 and 2008.
Tamamian was also implicated in the May 2007 death of a man in police custody. Levon Gulian, a Yerevan-based restaurant owner, was found dead after being questioned at the Directorate General of Criminal Investigations. The police claimed that Gulian fell to his death while attempting to escape from a second-floor interrogation room.
Gulian’s family vehemently rejected this theory, saying that the 30-year-old father of two was tortured to death by police investigators. It claimed that Tamamian personally interrogated the victim. The police denied that.