Angry for Answers: Parents challenge the prosecutor case on their soldier son’s electrocution through negligence

Deceased soldier Tigran Ohanjanyan’s parents claim the judge hearing the case of their son’s death refuse to meet their demand for material evidence related to the case to be presented in court and neglect the results of a related forensic examination. They insist such a body of evidence, if presented in court, will exclude the current theory of electrocution through carelessness.

Three years ago, Ohanjanyan, a promising young judokas who lived with his parents in Novorossiysk, Russia, became a conscript of Armenia’s armed forces. Little did his parents suspect then that they would have to return to their home country only to engage in a lengthy legal proceeding trying to establish the cause of their son’s death.

Tigran Ohanjanyan died on August 30, 2007, in military unit 28 418 situated in the village of Karchaghbyur of the Gegharkunik region. According to the materials of the criminal case, at about 11:00 pm he left the military unit and was killed by electrocution when he touched a cable near a communications antenna.

This conclusion was given by forensic doctor Vigen Adamyan. However, after studying the criminal case and finding numerous dubious facts, the parents of the deceased came to the conclusion that their son was murdered.

“How could my son have got killed by electricity of only 30 volts? If it was a case of electrocution, why were my child’s clothes torn into pieces, why did his teeth come out, why weren’t his shoe damaged in the part from where, according to them, the electricity went out,” says Tigran’s mother Gohar Sargsyan.

Specialists say 30 volts cannot kill a human being. The family themselves think their son became a victim of a premeditated murder followed by a high-level cover-up, but they find it difficult to name the motives.

The dead soldier’s father, Suren Ohanjanyan, says that the court refuses to provide them with material evidence, saying that they discussed this matter during the December 9 trial.

“But if the trial was on that day, why hadn’t them inform us about it? Why did they notify us on December 8 that the trial would be on December 21? Or why until today only 13 out of more than 70 witnesses have been interviewed? And weren’t all of them interviewed in our presence?” the father adds his to the long list of questions.

As part of the theory of inadvertent electrocution, captain Rustam Asatryuan and warrant officer Karen Tovmasyan were charged with showing negligent attitude in their service. They were allowed to remain at large while their cases are being heard in court. If found guilty both face 3 to 6 year in prison. In court, Ohanjanyan’s parents defended the people in the dock, as they do not accept the theory of electrocution and believe the people currently charged in the case are being used as part of a major cover-up.

“After the killing the Ministry of Defense strictly reprimanded the commander of the military unit Smbat Simonyan, chief of staff Kaptan Tarkhchyan, the man on duty N’ver Margaryan. But a month and a half after the incident, all three were promoted,” the soldier’s father fumes.

Lawyer in the Ojanjanyan case Monica Margaryan believes it would not have taken so long for the investigators to disclose the case had they worked properly, without overlooking some crucial pieces of evidence.

Another lawyer for the Ohanjanyans, Seda Safaryan, says that dozens of killings of similar nature take place in military units during the year. (Hazing and mistreatment of soldiers still occur in the army and constitutes a malady that is a potential source of suicides and murders. It is a practice that has plagued Armenia and other post-soviet armies.)

“The reason is mainly the absence of due discipline. Cases are mainly not disclosed or receive baffling solutions – it turns out that servicemen commit suicide or die through carelessness.”

One of the rare cases where the circumstances have been clearly established was the death of 18-year-old army conscript Aram Mkrtchyan at a military unit in Vayk in September. He died as a result of being brutally beaten by 26-year-old officer Andok Galstyan. Investigation in this case is currently in progress, Galstyan is in custody.

Meanwhile, the next hearing in the Ohanjanyan case is scheduled for January 13.