By Astghik Bedevian
The editor of an Armenian pro-opposition newspaper was hospitalized with serious injuries after being assaulted by unknown men outside its Yerevan offices at the weekend.
It was the second attack on Hovannes Galajian of the newspaper “Iskakan Iravunk” in just over a year.
Galajian remained in hospital on Monday, his bandaged head bearing traces of violence. He told RFE/RL that he was beaten up in the staircase of a building housing the “Iskakan Iravunk” offices on Saturday evening moments after receiving a phone call for a man who identified himself as a correspondent for another Armenian paper and asked for a meeting. He said the two assailants said nothing as they kicked and hit him with a metal bar.
Police were quick to open criminal case in connection with the incident. A senior officer at the police department of central Yerevan, Samvel Sargsian, said they are looking for the man who is said to have called Galajian. Nobody has been arrested yet, he told RFE/RL on Monday.
The editor said he suspects that the attack was the work of Hrant Khachatrian, the leader of a small opposition party who has been challenged by a group of other senior party members, including Galajian, for the past year. Khachatrian was ousted as chairman of the Union for Constitutional Rights (SIM) by the dissident faction in a stormy party congress late last year only to be reinstated by a Yerevan court in February.
Galajian was forced to resign as editor-in-chief of the SIM-controlled newspaper “Iravunk” and founded his current paper along with other SIM dissidents at the time. Their subsequent attempts to have a higher court annul Khachatrian’s control of the party and “Iravunk” failed. Each SIM faction has accused the other of secretly collaborating with the Armenian authorities.
Khachatrian strongly denied on Monday any involvement in the editor’s beating, claiming that it might have been orchestrated by his rivals. “I don’t rule out two theories,” he said. “Either a third party is pouring petrol on the fading SIM dispute, or they themselves organized that provocation.”
Galajian was already assaulted by unknown individuals in September 2006, shortly before the outbreak of the bitter SIM dispute, when he still managed “Iravunk.” He and his colleagues attributed the attack to their hard-hitting coverage of the government and then Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian in particular. Nobody was prosecuted in connection with that incident.