Case Closed? Attorneys call for renewed attention to murder investigation of US citizen

News Update: Haglunds’ lawyer threatened, presumably over representation

Armenian attorney Marina Janoyan, counsel for the family of murdered US citizen Joshua Haglund, says she was threatened Monday (February 13), presumably for her defense of Haglund, who was openly gay, and whose death here was seen by many as a “hate crime”.

According to the attorney, at about 2:20 p.m., near Yerevan State University, a driver tried to run her over with his automobile.

Janoyan says the man appeared to be about 30 and was stout, and said to her “Why do you compromise us?” apparently a reference to her defense of Haglund, in this society where homosexuality is not tolerated.

The attorney said the man told her she’d better “think about your life”.

Attorneys representing the family of slain U.S. citizen Joshua Haglund are demanding that prosecutors reactivate their investigation into the murder. Hagland was found outside his Yerevan apartment on May 18, 2004, with numerous stab wounds.

Haglund, believed to be the first U.S. citizen murdered in Armenia, had been here since September 2003 as a visiting lecturer at the Valeri Brusov Yerevan State Linguistic University. His death sparked widespread outrage and concern among foreigners residing in Armenia and was seen by many as a “hate crime” committed because Haglund was homosexual.

In autumn 2004, Haglund’s family came to Armenia from their home in America to appeal to media and law enforcement to find their relative’s killer. (Click here for related ArmeniaNow reports.)

The family has since voiced its disappointment at Armenian authorities, who are accused in a report released by attorneys Tigran and Marina Janoyan of having been negligent in pursuing apparent leads, because of prevailing prejudices against gays in Armenia and alleged privileges granted suspects because of their influential acquaintances.

The Janoyans were retained by the Haglunds during the family’s visit to Armenia. Marina Janoyan told ArmeniaNow that her office learned in September 2005 that police had suspended the Haglund investigation a year earlier.

The investigation, she says, was put on hold in October 2004. The Haglunds’ trip to Armenia, though, took place that October and, based on what they told media, police were still investigating at that point.

The attorneys allege that police did not announce that the case had been suspended because this would deprive them of the right to withhold information from the family’s representatives. As long as a case is considered active, neither attorneys nor other interested parties are permitted to see the files. Although not closed, the case is no longer being actively investigated.

The Janoyans have collected information from various witnesses and suspects and the husband-wife legal team has submitted a seven-page analysis of the case to the Yerevan City Prosecutor’s Office. It calls into question police practices and accuses investigators of harassing suspects who were known to be gay, while allegedly ignoring evidence pointing to a prime suspect.

According to the Janoyans, the investigation focused almost exclusively on Haglund’s relationship with two other gay men, former Armenian International Magazine (AIM) editor Hrair Sarkis Sarkissian, a U.S. citizen living in Yerevan, and his lover, Vahe Karapetyan.

Karapetyan was detained and allegedly beaten by police and Sarkissian was questioned by investigators. Both men moved to California a few months after Haglund’s murder.

The Janoyans’ report says “homosexual jealousy was considered by the investigation as the motive of the crime” and that detectives suspected Karapetyan of the killing out of jealousy stirred by a supposed affair between Sarkissian and Haglund.

“The interrogation and expert examinations performed in this area have not revealed any grounds that would support the above hypothesis,” the attorneys’ analysis says.

The Haglunds’ lawyers also say that investigators were negligent for not interviewing a potential suspect – a man identified only by the first name Sako, who was acquainted with Karapetyan, Sarkissian and Haglund. In early 2004, according to the report, Sako was living with Karapetyan and Sarkissian and hiding from his family, who were angry at him over a financial dispute involving a $20,000 bank loan.

Sometime in the months prior to Haglund’s murder, Sarkissian and Karapeytyan filed a complaint with Yerevan Center Police alleging that relatives of Sako had attacked, threatened, terrified and insulted them in their apartment while looking for Sako.

“The possibilities of Sako and his relatives (who had a history of attacking others) encroaching upon Joshua Haglund were not investigated,” says the report, which also insinuates that police did not name Sako as a suspect because of his family’s “high patronage.”

According to the report, James Haglund, Joshua Haglund’s brother and legal successor, suspects that Sako spread defaming information among “some privileged female students” who were having academic problems with Haglund.

“It would be especially important to investigate the possible relatives and friends of certain students who could have the privilege of acting unlawfully and using their resources and ability to influence the authorities . . .” the report concludes.

The attorneys claim that Haglund’s murderer(s) are protected by their association with military officials “which is the reason for the inefficiency of the regular investigation”.

The Haglunds’ attorneys propose that the City Prosecutor’s Office take action on 10 points, including “to undertake investigative and procedural steps to fill the gaps described earlier in this Appeal”.

The analysis by the Janoyans is not legally binding, but the Prosecutor’s Office may take it into consideration in making decisions on whether to reactivate the investigation.

The Prosecutor’s Office has not commented on the report, but maintains that the investigation has been properly conducted.

Click here to read the attorneys' full analysis.