YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The Armenian military announced on Wednesday the arrests of four servicemen in connection with last week’s suspicious death of a junior army officer.
Military investigators acknowledged that Lieutenant Artak Nazarian was ill-treated by at least one fellow officer and soldiers of his unit stationed in the northeastern Tavush region bordering Azerbaijan. They effectively insisted, nonetheless, that he shot himself while on combat duty.
A statement by the Defense Ministry said a criminal investigation into the incident, which has shocked many Armenians, is being conducted under a Criminal Code article that deals with “inducing suicides” through violence and humiliation.
One of the reported detainees is Captain Hakob Manukian, a deputy commander of the battalion where Nazarian had served since last November. The ministry statement said Manukian is suspected of beating up and humiliating the 30-year-old officer in a way that led to “severe consequences.”
According to the Defense Ministry, the three other detainees, all of them army conscripts, also assaulted Nazarian. No further details were reported.
None of the four men have been formally charged yet. The accusation that can be leveled against Manukian carries between three and eight years’ imprisonment, while the three soldiers are facing the possibility of up to twelve years in jail.
Nazarian’s relatives say a forensic examination exposed numerous injuries to his face, hands, shoulders and feet, makes them believe that they were inflicted several hours before the shooting. On Wednesday, Nazarian’s relatives stood by their view that he was killed by other servicemen.
The relatives said earlier that Nazarian, who enrolled in contractual military service in November, had difficult relations with his commanders. They said he was treated as a “weak” officer who was unable to impose his will on soldiers.
According to the military, Nazarian was found dead at an army outpost on July 27. This was a day before an even more serious incident occurred in another frontline unit where six soldiers were shot dead, the circumstance of which are still in still unclear.