By Astghik Bedevian
State prosecutors were on Monday considering bringing criminal charges against a controversial Armenian parliamentarian who was arrested after reportedly provoking a mass brawl and shootout in a natural gas distribution station near Yerevan.
A statement by the Prosecutor-General’s Office said Hakob Hakobian, his driver and two associates were taken to Armenia’s top maximum-security jail on Sunday for committing a “hooligan act with the use of firearms” that left four people seriously injured.
Other law-enforcement sources told RFE/RL that the violence erupted after security guards at the facility belonging to the ARG national gas distributor refused to let Hakobian enter its offices. They said Hakobian, who is also a wealthy businessman, and his bodyguards fired gunshots and threw punches in response to the rebuff, leading the guards to call in “reinforcements” from a feared state agency tasked with ensuring President Robert Kocharian’s personal security.
Officers from the State Guard Service are said to have arrested Hakobian on the spot. He was being kept there as of Monday evening amid a continuing criminal investigation into the incident. A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General’s Office said the investigators have yet to decide whether to formally charge the pro-government lawmaker with armed assault or “hooliganism.” They are currently assessing their options, she said.
Under Armenian law, a member of the National Assembly can not be kept in custody for more than 72 hours and prosecuted without the consent of most of his or her fellow lawmakers. Law-enforcement authorities are also obliged to immediately inform the assembly speaker about a deputy’s detention.
However, speaker Tigran Torosian was clearly unaware of Hakobian’s arrest when contacted by RFE/RL on Monday. “Nobody has notified me about such an incident,” he said.
Hakobian, who is affiliated with the pro-Kocharian People’s Deputy group of non-partisan parliamentarians, is no stranger to controversy, having spent almost two weeks in a Dubai prison on suspicion of shoplifting in January 2005. Hakobian, his son and a friend of the latter’s were arrested at the time after allegedly stealing expensive clothing from a local shop. He strongly denied the charges.
The 43-year-old, who lives and holds sway in the southern town of Echmiadzin, reportedly visited the nearby ARG facility after it cut off supplies to liquefied gas stations owned by him. The prosecutors’ statement said he and his men assaulted individuals tasked with “preventing illegal use of gas by gas stations belonging to Hakob Hakobian.” According to the Armenian police, one of those individuals, Hayk Vartanian is also the chairman of the Armenian Karate Federation.
(Photolur photo: Hakob Hakobian.)