Sona Mnatsakanyan and her husband Ashot Vardanyan

Family Of Woman Killed By Pashinyan Motorcade Car Alleges Cover-Up


By Susan Badalian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Close relatives of a pregnant woman who died after being hit by a police car escorting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s motorcade accused Armenian authorities on Thursday of destroying evidence relevant to the case.

They claimed that the law-enforcement authorities are reluctant to prosecute all officials responsible for the death of Sona Mnatsakanyan.

Mnatsakanyan, 29, 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.

Its driver, police Major Aram Navasardyan, was arrested twice by investigators but freed by courts. Navasardyan denies the accusations of reckless driving and negligence leveled against him.

Members of Mnatsakanyan’s family are unhappy with the course of the ongoing criminal investigation, saying that it amounts to a cover-up. The deceased woman’s mother, Armine Makinyan, said the authorities are hiding key facts surrounding the fatal accident.

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“They’ve destroyed [recordings of] radio conversations,” charged Makinyan. ”Namely, what was spoken with the [police] driver moments before the crash, what order was given, when [another] policeman who regulated traffic [near the site of the accident] got that order, when they turned on their sirens.”

“All that data should have been documented and handed over to the investigator in charge of the case. But the investigator has no such things at his disposal,” she said.

The indicted policeman’s lawyer, Ruben Baloyan, confirmed but downplayed the absence of audio of radio conversations among security personnel that escorted Pashinyan that day. Citing the investigators, he claimed that they were not recorded due to a technical malfunction.

According to Raffi Aslanyan, the lawyer representing the victim’s family, forensic tests found that the police car raced through the city at almost 109 kilometers/hour (68 miles/hour), breaching a 100-kilometer/hour speed limit set for government motorcades.

“This doesn’t really matter,” countered Baloyan. ”He [Navasardyan] could only be subjected to disciplinary action for speeding.”

The lawyer again defended his client’s failure to stop his car and help Mnatsakanyan.

Makinyan pointed out that her daughter died more than an hour after being hit by the police car. She or her unborn baby could have stayed alive had she been immediately rushed to the hospital, said the grief-stricken mother.

“He [the policeman] must have stopped even at the risk of losing his job,” added Makinyan. ”The prime minister was also obliged to stop to see what happened there.”

Pashinyan’s limousine and the six other cars making up his motorcade drove past the dying woman. Pashinyan has still not publicly commented on her death.

Sona Mnatsakanyan

The deputy chief of his staff 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, blaming Pashinyan for Mnatsakanyan’s death.

The probe of the accident has also prompted concern from seven members of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag. Four of them are affiliated with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party.

In a joint letter sent on July 6, the German lawmakers urged Armenian parliament speaker Alen Simonyan to “closely follow the case to bring justice to Sona Mnatsakanyan and her family.” They said they hope that those responsible for the young woman’s death will be brought to justice “regardless of their rank and position.”

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