Argishti Kivirian, an Armenian media editor who was badly beaten in Yerevan last year, accused on Friday an ethnic Armenian police official in Georgia of masterminding the still unsolved assault.
Kivirian, 37, was attacked outside his apartment in the city center in the early hours of April 30, 2009. He was rushed to hospital and kept in intensive care for several days. The attackers apparently used wooden sticks to inflict serious injuries on his head and body.
The criminal investigation into the incident was initially conducted by the Armenian police under a Criminal Code clause that deal with violent attacks resulting in “light injuries.” A resulting media outcry led Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) to take over the inquiry and essentially back the Kivirian family’s belief that the attack was a murder attempt.
The NSS arrested two men, identified as Vladik Serobian and Gurgen Kilikian, on related charges in July. According to Kivirian, they both were released from pre-trial custody last month.
An NSS spokesman declined to confirm or deny this when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Friday. Nor did he agree to divulge any details of the probe, saying that it is still not over.
Speaking at a news conference held on the first anniversary of the incident, Kivirian pointed the finger at Samvel Petrosian, the police chief of the Akhalkalaki district in southern Georgia mainly populated by Armenians. He argued that his Armenia Today and Bagin online news services repeatedly accused Georgian authorities and the Akhalkalaki police in particular of unleashing repressions against local Armenian activists campaigning for the region’s greater autonomy.
Petrosian was personally blamed for the 2008 arrests of some of those activists. Three of them were subsequently tried and given lengthy prison sentences on controversial charges.
Kivirian, who is a native of Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia, alleged that Serobian and Kilikian, the apparently freed suspects, met Petrosian and received clear instructions from him two days before the April 2009 assault. He also claimed that Serobian is related to the Akhalkalaki police chief.
“I have no personal enemies. And so I link [the attack] only with my journalistic activities,” said the editor.
Kivirian went on to question the Armenian authorities’ commitment to solve the case. “The presidential press service is saying that the case is under the president’s strict control. Were those two individuals set free as a result of that strict control?” he asked with sarcasm.
“Some time later, this criminal case will be suspended and put into a drawer,” he added.
Kivirian’s beating was one of the most serious instances of violence ever committed against Armenian journalists. It was condemned by more than a dozen Armenian non-governmental organizations involved in media freedom and human rights advocacy. They said it was made possible by the authorities’ failure to punish the perpetrators of previous attacks on journalists.