By Karine Simonian in Alaverdi
A defeated opposition candidate who alleged serious vote irregularities in a constituency in northern Armenia on Monday survived an apparent arson attack on her home which she blamed on her pro-government rival.
Unknown individuals set fire to the entrance door of Larisa Paremuzian’s apartment in Alaverdi, an industrial town in the Lori region, in the early hours of the morning. The fire practically destroyed the door before being put out by Paremuzian and her neighbors. They prevented a much more severe consequences by making sure it does reach the apartment building’s gas pipes.
“If I slept well ,I would not stay alive and the whole building would burn down,” Paremuzian told RFE/RL.
Her neighbors were visibly shocked by the incident. “Luckily, my kids stayed alive,” said one woman.
Police in Alaverdian swiftly launched an investigation under an article of the Armenian Criminal Code that deals with arson and other forms of damage deliberately inflicted on citizens’ property.
Paremuzian heads the Alaverdi branch of the opposition People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) and is an outspoken critic of the municipal and regional governments. She unsuccessfully ran for parliament in the local single-mandate constituency in the May 12 elections. Official vote results there gave victory to Karen Saribekian of the governing Republican Party (HHK).
Paremuzian refused to concede defeat, accusing Saribekian of large-scale vote rigging. She detailed her allegations in a May 18 article in the Yerevan daily “Aravot.” The article prompted Alaverdi prosecutors to summon her and the chairman of the local election commission, Vram Vanian, for questioning on Friday. The opposition activist claimed that the latter looked “terrified” when one of the prosecutors suggested that the commission recount ballots.
“I believe this attack was the continuation of that questioning,” Paremuzian said. “I suspect that it was the work of Vram Vanian and my rival Karen Saribekian.”
Artur Sakunts, head of the regional branch of the Armenian Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, also alleged political motives behind the “terrorist act.” “This is the result of Larisa Paremuzian’s political and public activities,” he told RFE/RL. “Law-enforcement authorities will bear responsibility for the attack if they fail to punish its perpetrators.”
The police reported no arrests in connection with the incident as of Monday evening.
(Photo by the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly.)