Four men have been arrested in connection with the severe beating of three military doctors at a Yerevan restaurant belonging to an influential government-connected businessman, police said on Wednesday.
Ashot Aharonian, the chief spokesman for the Armenian police, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the detained suspects include two security guards, a restaurant manager and a waiter. It is not clear if they have been charged yet.
One of the guards, Garik Markarian, has been described by some media outlets as the man who inflicted severe head injuries on Vahe Avetian, a 35-year-old doctor hit hardest in the incident.
Avetian remained in what doctors at a Yerevan hospital described as extremely grave condition on Wednesday despite having undergone two brain surgeries.
The doctor visited the Harsnakar restaurant in the city’s northern Avan suburb on Sunday with four friends and colleagues. The latter say that they were attacked by at least a dozen men after Avetian argued with a waiter over the restaurant’s dress code. Two of them were taken to hospital with less serious injuries.
The incident has cast a renewed media spotlight on the notoriously violent conduct of burly men working for the country’s influential “oligarchs,” including Ruben Hayrapetian, the Harsnakar owner. Media commentators have attributed the severity of the assault to what they see as impunity enjoyed by those men and their powerful employers.
Hayrapetian, who is also a parliament deputy from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), strongly condemned the incident but denied any responsibility for it on Tuesday. He pledged to assist in the criminal investigation conducted by the police.
The tycoon was conspicuously absent from a session of the Armenian parliament held on Wednesday.
Samvel Aleksanian, another government-linked wealthy parliamentarian and a friend of Hayrapetian’s, defended the fellow “oligarch.” “A bad thing occurred but why should Hayrapetian be blamed for that?” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in the National Assembly. “I also have employees and relatives. Should I be held answerable for everything they do?”
Meanwhile, the Armenian Defense Ministry officially condemned the violence and expressed solidarity with its victims and their relatives. The ministry assured them that it is “not indifferent to impudent manifestations existing within our society.”
In a statement, the ministry also said it is closely monitoring the police inquiry and is “confident that those responsible for the incident will be strictly punished.”