By Hovannes Shoghikian
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian issued on Thursday a “strict reprimand” to two Armenian deputy ministers of health who reportedly assaulted and beat up two other men at a Yerevan restaurant late last month.
The officials, Tatul Hakobian and Abraham Manukian, were put under a criminal investigation earlier this month. The Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement body conducting the investigation, has not formally charged them yet.
The opposition daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” reported on January 16 that the incident occurred as the two officials partied at the Mexican restaurant with a group of friends and loudly swore in the process, ignoring the presence of other patrons. It said one of them, former Energy Minister Mels Hakobian, protested against the use of foul language.
“The deputy ministers were angered by Hakobian’s warning and together with about a dozen friends severely beat not only Hakobian but his son-in-law,” claimed the paper. “The latter was taken to hospital with injuries.”
The SIS, which is subordinated to state prosecutors, said on Thursday it opened a criminal case in connection with the incident on January 2, two weeks before the publication of the “Haykakan Zhamanak” report. In a written statement sent to RFE/RL, the SIS implicated only one of the deputy ministers, Manukian, in the beating.
The statement said Manukian, his son and several other men assaulted Hakobian and two other persons outside the restaurant with “hooligan motives.” “The investigation is continuing, and measures are being taken to clarify all details of the incident,” it added.
Sarkisian condemned both vice-ministers for their “unacceptable conduct in a public place” as he chaired a weekly session of his cabinet earlier in the day. “Unfortunately, this phenomenon still exists in the Republic of Armenia,” said the prime minister. “I receive complaints from our citizens that many officials abuse their position and don’t realize that they occupy that position to serve the people, rather than use it for their personal interests.
“We will soon adopt an ethics code and the norms set by that code will apply to everyone. Those state servants who can’t imagine themselves acting within the bounds of those norms will have to resign.”