An officer of Nagorno-Karabakh’s armed forces has been arrested on charges of ill-treating one of his soldiers who was found dead last week, military investigators said on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old conscript, Arman Muradian, died of a gunshot wound to his chest near a Karabakh military base. Military officials say that he killed himself after suffering abuse at the hands of the deputy commander of his battalion, Major Emil Avetisian.
A spokesperson for the Armenian Defense Ministry’s Investigative Department told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) Avetisian has been charged with badly mistreating Muradian and driving him to commit suicide. It was not clear if the 42-year-old suspect confessed to the charge.
The soldier’s father, Hovsep Muradian, believes, however, that the officer not only beat up but also shot Arman. Citing information obtained from unnamed sources in the army unit, he claimed that Avetisian assaulted his son and two other soldiers after they allegedly did not respond to his phone calls to an observation post manned by them. He claimed that Arman was shot after protesting against the abuse.
“He shot from my son’s weapon. I know that for sure,” the weeping father, who is a resident of a village in central Armenia, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “He was due to be demobilized on November 28. Why would a sergeant who has served for 20 months commit suicide?” he said.
Hovsep Muradian added that he will try to meet Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian to demand that the arrested officer be charged with murder and face the possibility of a longer prison sentence.
Arman Muradian is one of the three Armenian soldiers who military authorities say committed suicide last month as a result of hazing and other abuses. The military has reported dozens of such suicides in recent years.
Human rights groups cast doubt on the official causes of many of these non-combat deaths. They say that the military often portrays murders as suicides to save officers from imprisonment. The Defense Ministry denies this.