An influential businessman and parliament deputy close to the government on Tuesday strongly denied any responsibility for the severe beating of three men at a Yerevan restaurant owned by him.
The men, all of them military doctors, were hospitalized with serious injuries. One of them, Major Vahe Avetian, remained in critical condition on Tuesday. Avetian suffered life-threatening head injuries in a reported dispute with restaurant staff on Sunday.
Artak Bayadian, another doctor taken to a Yerevan hospital, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the violence was triggered by Avetian’s verbal argument with a waiter. Bayadian said he, Avetian and their three companions were told to leave the restaurant before being attacked by 10-15 other men. He said they were repeatedly punched and kicked.
Some Armenian media were quick to suggest that the attackers were security guards of the expensive restaurant belonging to Ruben Hayrapetian, a wealthy businessman affiliated with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). He is also the chairman of the Armenian Football Federation.
Hayrapetian has faced opposition allegations of politically motivated violence in the past and is also notorious for insulting journalists. The tycoon has been accused in some media outlets and online social networks of possibly sanctioning or even ordering the beatings.
Hayrapetian strongly denied those suggestions, urging the media to be “absolutely accurate” and not to “exploit” the incident. “My immediate work is confined to the National Assembly and the Football Federation,” he said in a statement. “Managing business structures, which were founded by me, belong to my family and employ hundreds of people, is not my immediate duty, and it is inadmissible to attribute everything happening there to me.”
“I sincerely and humanely feel sorry for the unacceptable incident,” added Hayrapetian. He pledged to “do everything” to help law-enforcement authorities identify and punish the culprits “regardless of whether they are security guards, waiters or do other work.”
The Armenian police said on Monday that they have identified a man who beat up the doctors. But nobody was arrested or formally charged as of Tuesday evening.