Sona Mnatsakanyan

Officer in Pashinyan Motorcade Charged Over Fatal Crash Involving Pregnant Woman

1031
0

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — An Armenian law-enforcement agency formally indicted on Friday, April 29, a police officer whose car hit and killed a young woman while escorting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s motorcade in Yerevan on Tuesday, April 26.

The 28-year-old pregnant woman, Sona Mnatsakanyan, was struck by a police SUV while crossing a street in the city center. The vehicle did not stop after the collision that sparked more opposition calls for Pashinyan’s resignation. Its driver, Major Aram Navasardyan, was arrested a few hours later.

Navasardyan was charged with violating traffic rules. It was not immediately clear whether the Investigative Committee would seek a court permission to hold him in detention pending investigation. The law-enforcement body did not identify any other suspects in the high-profile case.

Navasardyan’s lawyer, Ruben Baloyan, said his client is not accused of fleeing the scene and not helping the victim who later died from her severe injuries.

“He came back to the scene of the accident and took part in its examination,” Baloyan told RFE / RL’s Armenian Service.

Police at the scene of the accident

According to the Investigative Committee, the traffic policeman showed up only two hours after the crash.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

Pashinyan’s limousine and the six other cars making up his motorcade also drove past the dying woman without offering help. The prime minister has not yet publicly commented on the unprecedented accident.

His deputy chief staff, Taron Chakhoyan, said that the Prime Minister had a telephone conversation with Sona Mnatsakanyan’s father, expressed his condolences to him and his family members, expressed his sorrow and regret over the incident, and assured that an objective investigation will be carried out.

Chakhoyan also claimed the day after the crash that the motorcade would have caused a traffic jam and made it harder for an ambulance to reach the victim had it stopped right after the crash.

Chakhoyan also said that “internationally accepted rules” stipulate that the motorcades of government leaders “have no right to stop in unauthorized places.”

Narek Martirosyan, a reporter with the fact-checking website fip.am, dismissed the official’s claim. He said that both Armenian law and an international convention on road safety signed by Armenia require everyone to stop at the scene of an accident caused by them.

Sona Mnatsakanyan

Opposition Responds

Opposition figures have been even more critical of Pashinyan’s failure to halt his motorcade. Some of them have blamed him for the woman’s death and demanded his resignation.

“Would the [arrested] police major have stopped right after the collision had he not escorted Nikol Pashinyan?” said Artur Ghazinyan, a parliament deputy from the main opposition Hayastan alliance. “He would have definitely stopped… and quickly taken [the victim] to the hospital located 300 meters away.”

“Now who is more to blame, the car driver or Nikol Pashinyan?” Ghazynyan asked, clearly putting the blame on the prime minister.

The accident came as Hayastan and other opposition groups geared up for mass protests aimed at toppling Pashinyan over what they see as sweeping concessions to Azerbaijan planned by him.

“What else should [Pashinyan] do to get people to take to the streets?” Ishkhan Saghatelyan, a senior Hayastan figure, said, commenting on the young woman’s death.

“This citizen must be our last victim,” Saghatelyan told RFE / RL’s Armenian Service. “He [Pashinyan] must simply resign.”

Gevorg Papoyan, a parliament deputy from the ruling Civil Contract party, responded by accusing the opposition of dishonestly exploiting the accident for political purposes. Papoyan also said Pashinyan “did not know that an accident occurred” when his motorcade raced through Yerevan.

[Navasardyan was released later on April 29 from detention.]

 

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: