The dormant criminal probe into identifying the culprits of the March 1, 2008 killing of eight civilians and two police officers during a post-presidential election protest has finally yielded a suspect. On Tuesday, Armenia’s Special Investigative Service issued an arrest warrant for former defense minister, General Mikael Harutiunyan on charges of illegally mobilizing Armenia’s Armed forces against peaceful demonstrators, saying it amounted to a “breach of constitutional order.”
The SIS also announced Tuesday that it has summoned Harutiunyan’s boss at the time, former President Robert Kocharian, for questioning on the same matter. Kocharian’s press secretary, Victor Soghomonyan, told azatutyun.am that the former president is out of the country, adding that as of 5 p.m. local time his office had not received a summons.
The SIS said that Harutiunyan, allegedly with “other individuals” used Armenia’s armed forces against protesters, calling a “breach of constitutional order.”
In the same conclusion, the SIS said that the February 2008 presidential elections, during which Serzh Sarkisian was elected president, was marred by “large-scale irregularities,” which sparked the anti-government protests by factions loyal to Armenia’s fist president, Levon Ter-Petrossian who lost the election, according to official results.
In its detailed statement, the SIS charged that on February 23, 2008, Harutiunyan secretly and illegally ordered the army to help enforce the official vote results. Military units began moving in to Yerevan in the following days and were actively engaged in the ensuing crackdown that resulted in the 10 deaths.
The SIS statement said that the “de facto martial law” regime created by the deployment of the army violated constitutional provisions guaranteeing the military’s neutrality.
“A number of high-ranking officials of the acting authorities, including Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunyan, carried out actions aimed at violently breaching the constitutional order in the Republic of Armenia,” read the SIS statement based on which the charges were brought against the 72-year-old Harutiunyan, who served as the Armed Forces chief of staff from 1994 to 2007, before being named defense minister by Kocharian.