Police Again Refuse To Prosecute Tycoon Over Restaurant Death
Ruzanna Stepanian 22.08.2012
The Armenian police have reaffirmed their refusal to prosecute businessman Ruben Hayrapetian in connection with a deadly assault at a Yerevan restaurant owned by him, a lawyer said on Wednesday.
The two lawyers representing the family of Vahe Avetian, a military doctor who was beaten to death at the Harsnakar restaurant on June 17, petitioned police investigators to formally treat the influential tycoon as a suspect in the high-profile case.
One of the attorneys, Tigran Yegorian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the petition has been rejected. He said the investigators have also refused to transcribe Hayrapetian’s phone conversations during the incident that were recorded by mobile phone operators.
The police have faced calls from opposition members, civic activists and some media to prosecute Hayrapetian ever since Avetian and two of his colleagues were beaten up by restaurant staff in still unclear circumstances. They claim that the notoriously bad-tempered tycoon, who has strong connections in the government, may have personally ordered the assault.
Hayrapetian has strongly denied such allegations, while accepting his “moral” responsibility for the incident that shocked many Armenians. He resigned as parliament deputy representing the ruling Republican Party of Armenia shortly after Avetian died in hospital later in June.
Hayrapetian was questioned by the police as a potential witness in early July. Arsen Ayvazian, a high-ranking police official overseeing the inquiry, said afterwards that the investigators have no evidence of his involvement.
Six men are currently under arrest pending trial on charges stemming from the beatings. Most of them worked as security guards at the restaurant. Their trial is expected to start soon.
Yegorian on Wednesday reiterated his strong criticism of the police inquiry, saying that it has been deeply flawed. He said that the police have examined only some transcripts of the arrested suspects’ phone calls. He said they have also inexplicably failed to question anyone over a phone call that was made by one of the suspects to a fixed-line number registered in the name of Hayrapetian’s father.
“This gives us reason to have serious suspicions,” added the lawyer. “Elementary questions have not been directed to witnesses and suspects, including Ruben Hayrapetian.”