By Karine Kalantarian
The Armenian police have “suspended” their criminal investigation into the April 22 severe beating of a prominent opposition figure because of their failure to identify any suspects, police officials said on Friday.
Ashot Manucharian, who held top security positions in Armenia’s first post-Communist government in the early 1990s, suffered a fractured jaw and spent days in intensive care after being attacked by unknown persons in broad daylight in the center of Yerevan. It was the most recent in a series of beatings of prominent individuals critical of the Armenian government.
Among them were opposition leader Victor Dallakian and human rights campaigner Mikael Danielian. The violence, blamed by the opposition on the authorities, prompted protests from international organizations. The Yerevan office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed on April 29 concern at “an alarming lack of progress” in the official inquiries. Nobody has so far been arrested or charged in connection with those incidents.
Artavazd Ghazarian, a senior officer in the police department of Yerevan’s central Kentron district, told RFE/RL that the law-enforcement authorities have decided to stop looking for Manucharian’s attackers in accordance with the Armenian criminal code. He said the investigation may still resume if new facts shedding light on the attack emerge.
Manucharian, who has not yet publicly spoken since the beating, was not available for comment. But one of his close associates, Eduard Simoniants, dismissed the official explanation as unconvincing. “This is the first time that the investigation into a crime committed two months ago is being suspended in Armenia,” he told RFE/RL. “There are probably some other reasons involved.”
“I am convinced that the authorities are not interested in tracking down the criminals,” Simoniants added.
An eyewitness has described Manucharian’s attackers as three strongly built men with shaven heads and short haircuts. The description resembles the appearance of about two dozen men that tried to disrupt an opposition rally in Yerevan on April 5. Police at the scene looked on as they attacked journalists and smashed cameras that filmed their actions.
Manucharian is believed to be the unofficial leader of the Intellectual Forum, a non-governmental organization that has backed the Armenian opposition’s campaign of street protests against President Robert Kocharian.
(Photolur photo: Ashot Manucharian.)