(Saturday, September 10)
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that police officers investigating a recent murder in Yerevan of an Iranian citizen have tortured an innocent Armenian man into confessing to the crime. The paper says the Iranian, identified as Mahmoud Tahmasebi, was stabbed to death in the early hours of August 20 not far from a kiosk where Vartan Melkonian, a 33-year-old minibus driver, was drinking beer with colleagues. Melkonian was arrested and charged with the murder shortly afterward. The father of three, who worked as a driver despite having a university diploma, admitted to the crime “after several days of beatings.”
According to “Haykakan Zhamanak,” the police also badly mistreated other witnesses. “The torture and beatings were so severe that two of the witnesses are now in hospital … All those who denied Melkonian’s involvement in the crime got in trouble,” the paper says, adding that the suspect’s elderly father suffered a stroke and was hospitalized after a visit to the prosecutor’s office of Yerevan.
The head of the Council of Europe office in Yerevan, Bojana Urumova, assures “Hayots Ashkhar” that a failure of the upcoming constitutional referendum in Armenia would not be seen in Strasbourg as a vote of no confidence in President Robert Kocharian’s administration. “The referendum on constitutional reform is not a means by which the public has to express its attitude toward the authorities,” she says.
“Hayots Ashkhar” also reports that Galust Sahakian, a leader of the governing Republican Party, has downplayed the significance of the Armenian opposition’s decision to end its boycott of parliament. “The best moment was the process of constitutional changes in which they participated with proposals,” he says, adding that the opposition thereby “effectively became an indirect co-author” of Kocharian’s constitutional draft.
Another Republican leader, Tigran Torosian, warns his pro-government partners against taunting opposition deputies returning to the National Assembly. Interviewed by “Aravot,” Torosian complains that some pro-Kocharian groups not represented in parliament are already noting gleefully that the opposition is ending the boycott despite the fact that the authorities have not met any of its demands.
“Ayb-Fe” comments that nobody has suffered from the rift within the opposition Hanrapetutyun party. “In fact, nothing terrible happened,” writes the paper, arguing that Hanrapetutyun leader Aram Sarkisian and a group of his former associates that have left the party are acting according to their beliefs. “Sarkisian has effectively lost teammates that are quite known to the public,” it says. “On the other hand, those who left the party are the ones who hampered the realization of Sarkisian’s programs. Aram Sarkisian is now free to act. Either he will prove that he is an established politician who is ready to make serious political bids or he will finally fail and bear out Albert Bazeyan’s and Vagharshak Harutiunian’s statements.”
“It is already evident that Albert Bazeyan has suffered the most important and perhaps fateful defeat of his political career,” says “Haykakan Zhamanak.” The paper notes that nobody asked Bazeyan to reconsider his decision earlier this year to resign as Hanrapetutyun chairman.
“Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” comments on opposition leader Vazgen Manukian’s calls for the formation of a “public front” against the ruling regime. “This is a direct acknowledgement of the fact that the opposition masses are disappointed and do not trust parties anymore,” says the government-funded paper.
Manukian also urged the governing Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir parties to join the opposition. Vahan Hovannisian, one of the Dashnaktsutyun leaders, rules out such possibility in an interview with “Azg.”