Sona Mnatsakanyan

Officer in Pashinyan Motorcade Freed after Second Arrest

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By Naira Bughadarian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — A traffic police officer whose car hit and killed a young woman while escorting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s motorcade was released from custody early on Friday, May 13, hours after being arrested for the second time in two weeks.

The 29-year-old pregnant woman, Sona Mnatsakanyan, was struck by a police SUV while crossing a street in the center of Yerevan on April 26. 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.

Armenia’s Investigative Committee charged Navasardyan with violating traffic rules but released him shortly afterwards. The law-enforcement agency arrested the policeman again on Thursday after a prosecutor ordered it to also charge him with fleeing the scene and not helping the victim.

It went on to request a court permission to hold him in pre-trial detention. A Yerevan court refused to sanction the arrest, however, forcing the investigators to free Navasardyan.

Navasardyan denies the accusations leveled against him. His lawyer, Ruben Baloyan, cited on Thursday a government directive allowing government motorcades to move at up to 100 kilometers / hour in Yerevan.

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Raffi Aslanyan, a lawyer representing the victim’s family, dismissed the argument. ”In accordance with Armenia’s law on road safety, the driver was obliged to stop at the scene of the accident and to take the victim to hospital in his or somebody else’s car,” said Aslanyan.

Pashinyan’s limousine and the six other cars making up his motorcade also drove past the dying woman and did not help her. The prime minister has not yet publicly commented on her death.

The deputy chief of Pashinyan’s staff, Taron Chakhoyan, claimed on April 27 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.

Opposition figures and other government critics brushed aside that explanation. Some of them blamed Pashinyan for the unprecedented acciden

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