Sona Mnatsakanyan

New Probe into Deadly Crash Caused By Pashinyan’s Motorcade

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By Naira Bulghadarian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Armenia’s Court of Appeals has ordered a fresh investigation into the death of a pregnant woman who was hit last April by a police car escorting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s motorcade.

The police SUV struck the 28-year-old Sona Mnatsakanyan as she crossed a street in the center of Yerevan. It did not stop after the collision.

The vehicle’s driver, police Major Aram Navasardyan, was arrested twice and released before going on trial in November. He pleaded not guilty to the charges of reckless driving and negligence leveled against him.

Mnatsakanyan’s close relatives have been very critical of the pre-trial criminal investigation into her death, alleging a cover-up. They pointed to the investigators’ failure to prosecute any members of Pashinyan’s security detail and accused them of withholding key evidence relevant to the high-profile case.

That includes audio of radio conversations among security personnel that escorted Pashinyan on that day. The Armenian police reportedly told the investigators that they were not recorded due to a technical malfunction. The latter did not bother to check the veracity of the police claim, according to Raffi Aslanyan, a lawyer representing the victim’s family.

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In a ruling announced this week, the Court of Appeals ordered the Investigative Committee to properly examine the reasons for the absence of the recordings. It said the law-enforcement agency must do more to determine whether senior security officials in charge of Pashinyan’s motorcade were also responsible for the deadly accident that shocked many in Armenia.

The investigators and prosecutors overseeing them cleared those officials of any wrongdoing during last year’s inquiry. Only Navasardian was indicted.

Forensic tests conducted during that probe found that the police car driven by Navasardyan raced through Yerevan at almost 109 kilometers/hour (68 miles/hour), breaching a 100-kilometer/hour speed limit set for government motorcades. It remains unclear whether the policeman was ordered by his superiors to ignore the speed limit.

Under Armenian law, the prosecutors have 15 days to appeal against the court’s decision or launch a new investigation.

Pashinyan’s limousine and six other cars making up his motorcade drove past the dying woman moments after the accident. The prime minister never publicly commented on her death.

The deputy chief of Pashinyan’s staff claimed later in April 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.

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