Armenian Governor Investigated Over Violent Assault
Սեպտեմբեր 23, 2019
An Armenian law-enforcement agency said on Monday that it is investigating a provincial governor’s possible involvement in a violent dispute that left one man critically injured.
The incident occurred late last week in Yeghegnadzor, the administrative center of Armenia’s southeastern Vayots Dzor province. Ara Mkhitarian, an army lieutenant-colonel serving there, suffered severe injuries to his head while reportedly arguing with an assistant to the Vayots Dzor governor, Trdat Sargsian, in still unclear circumstances.
Mkhitarian remained in a coma at a military hospital on Monday, with doctors fighting for his life. One of them described the officer’s chances of survival as “very small.”
According to Armenia’s Investigative Committee, Mkhitarian suffered his injuries when he was punched by the governor’s 28-year-old aide, Harutiun Grigorian, and fell to the ground. Grigorian was arrested and charged with violent assault over the weekend.
Mkhitarian’s father Samvel and friends dismissed the official version of events as they gathered outside the prime minister’s office in Yerevan on Monday morning to demand an objective and full investigation of the Yeghegnadzor incident. They said that the officer and his colleagues were assaulted by a larger group of men that may have included Governor Sargsian.
“How can you knock down a 120-kilogram guy and smash his skull with one punch?” argued Samvel Mkhitarian.
“The governor must resign and be put on trial along with his gang,” said one of the victim’s friends.
Another protester claimed that an eyewitness who has given incriminating testimony against Sargsian is now being bullied by the governor. “We are demanding that the prosecutor[-general] put this case under his personal control and ensure a fair investigation because we don’t trust the Vayots Dzor police,” he said.
Sargsian, who is affiliated with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, strongly denied his involvement. “I was at home [during the incident,]” he told reporters.
The 30-year-old governor confirmed the existence of incriminating testimony against him. “I think it must be established who ordered such testimony and the person who ordered the false testimony must also be held accountable,” he said.
The Investigative Committee said, meanwhile, that it is taking “urgent measures” to “verify the Vayots Dzor governor’s participation in the incident.”
A spokeswoman for the committee, Naira Harutiunian, said investigators are studying footage from surveillance camera placed near the scene of the violence. “The case is overseen by the chairman of the Investigative Committee, Hayk Grigorian,” she added.
Armenian Governor To Resign Over Assault
Sep 24, 2019
The governor of Armenia’s southeastern Vayots Dzor province, Trdat Sargsian, announced his resignation early on Tuesday amid an investigation into his possible involvement in a violent dispute that left one man critically injured.
An aide to Sargsian was arrested over the weekend on charges of assaulting an Armenian army officer during the incident that occurred in the provincial capital Yeghegnadzor. Lieutenant-Colonel Ara Mkhitarian suffered severe injuries to his head and remains in a coma.
Mkhitarian’s relatives and friends say that he and other officers were attacked by a larger group of men that may have included Sargsian, a claim denied by the governor. Nevertheless, the latter faced on Monday growing calls to step down, with critics, among them supporters of the Armenian government, saying that he is responsible for the violence even if he was not directly involved in it.
In a statement posted on Facebook overnight, Sargsian insisted that he was at home during the incident. “I have presented the investigating body with evidence of this fact,” he wrote. “I am confident that there will be an objective investigation and the guilty will be punished.”
Still, Sargsian said he has decided to resign because he sees the need for “political ethics and political responsibility in the New Armenia.” He added that his resignation will take effect immediately after the Armenian military completes large-scale war games on October 5.
“Everyone who places themselves above the law must be held accountable,” a human rights lawyer, Nina Karapetiants, said in this regard. “Nobody must be able to dodge responsibility.”
Sargsian, 30, is a member of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party. Pashinian and his close associates have not publicly commented on the Yeghegnadzor incident.