By Ruzanna Stepanian
A prominent member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) who was hospitalized in Stepanakert with severe injuries last week insisted on Monday that he was beaten up by the top generals of Nagorno-Karabakh’s army, including Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Pavel Manukian claimed that the army commanders relentlessly punched and kicked him in Ohanian’s office because he had earlier poured scorn on them for their readiness to withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territories surrounding Karabakh.
Manukian, who is a decorated veteran of the 1991-94 war with Azerbaijan, said he was invited to the unrecognized republic’s Defense Ministry on June 21 by three top generals to explain why he scornfully referred to them as “clay generals” in his public pronouncements. “As I was explaining to them why I did that, General Samvel Karapetian hit me in the belly and the chin, saying that ‘what generals say can not be discussed’,” he said, lying in his hospital bed in Yerevan.
Manukian said they then took him to Ohanian’s office: “He immediately assaulted me, saying the worst possible swear words in the process. It was very unexpected for me. I was particularly offended by what he said about the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.”
“Then they started kicking me in the head,” he continued. “I felt really bad. Two well-fed generals versus one disabled and retired captain. But as I left the room I felt like I’m a general who is leaving six sergeants behind.”
Manukian was taken to a military hospital in Stepanakert before being moved to Yerevan late last week. Karabakh military doctors initially claimed that his injuries were caused by a fall. However, the ensued outcry made by Dashnaktsutyun’s Karabakh organization led the authorities to launch a criminal investigation.
At a meeting with Karabakh President Arkady Ghukasian local Dashnaktsutyun leaders demanded strict punishment for Ohanian and other alleged participants of the beating. Similar demands were contained in a joint statement by Dashnaktsutyun and several other local parties that condemned the violent incident. But nobody has been charged in the case so far.
The incident came in the wake of Karabakh’s June 19 parliamentary election in which an opposition bloc formed by Dashnaktsutyun and the Movement-88 opposition party unsuccessfully challenged Ghukasian’s loyalists. The bloc refused to concede defeat, alleging serious vote irregularities.
Manukian also ran for parliament on the Dashnaktsutyun list of candidates. “You seriously thought that we would give you power if you won?” he quoted Ohanian as telling him during the beating.
The Karabakh military has still not commented on Manukian’s allegations.