By Hasmik Smbatian
A state-run Armenian university has criticized one of its security guards for beating up a well-known photojournalist, while accusing the latter of provoking the incident.
Gagik Shamshian, a photographer for two pro-opposition dailies, was hospitalized with serious injuries on Friday after an angry bust-up with security guards Yerevan’s Bryusov State Linguistic University who refused to let him and several other journalists enter the building. The journalists wanted to interview the university rector, Suren Zolian, on corruption allegations.
Shamshian was knocked to the ground and kicked in the abdomen and crotch by there guards, including the chief of the university’s security service, after defying their orders to leave the building. They were questioned by the police and signed a written pledge not to leave Yerevan pending investigation into the incident. None of them was formally charged as of Monday.
“We regret what happened and at the same time find it necessary to state that the incident was the result of Gagik Shamshian’s hooligan acts, rather than a performance of his professional duties,” the university management said in a statement on Saturday. “While considering the [chief] security guard’s conduct unacceptable, we conclude that he must not have succumbed to Gagik Shamshian’s provocation.”
The statement said the university sent a separate written explanation to the police and asked them to “hold the culprits accountable.”
Speaking to RFE/RL from his hospital bed, Shamshian denied any responsibility for the beating strongly condemned by Armenia’s human rights ombudsman and leading media watchdogs. He also alleged that the guards were “incited” to assault him by Gabriel Balayan, the university’s deputy rector. Balayan strongly denied this on Monday.