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Ruling Party Defends Tycoon Over Restaurant Violence


Armenia -- Razmik Zohrabian, one of the leaders of the ruling HHK in a press conference. 05Oct2009

Armenia -- Razmik Zohrabian, one of the leaders of the ruling HHK in a press conference. 05Oct2009

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) insisted on Monday that a controversial businessman affiliated with it is not responsible for a violent assault that occurred at a Yerevan restaurant owned by his family.

The businessman, Ruben Hayrapetian, came under media fire after three military doctors were severely beaten up by restaurant staff in still unclear circumstances on June 17. The doctors were hospitalized and one of them remains in critical condition. Seven men, most of them security guards, were arrested on assault charges last week as the Armenian police pledged to punish those responsible for the violence.

The police have faced public calls for also investigating Hayrapetian’s possible role in the incident. He has been accused in some media outlets and online social networks of possibly sanctioning or even ordering the beatings.

Hayrapetian has strongly denied those suggestions, saying that he is not involved in the restaurant’s day-to-day management and cannot be held responsible for his employees’ violent conduct.

Razmik Zohrabian, a deputy chairman of the HHK, made a similar point at a news conference in Yerevan. “Ruben Hayrapetian is only the owner of that restaurant,” he said. “Many other people also own restaurants and other businesses. If a fight breaks out at any restaurant, should the owner, who only hired people, be held accountable?”

Government critics say the severity of the assault underscored what they see as an atmosphere of impunity enjoyed by government-linked “oligarchs” like Hayrapetian and people working for them.

Zohrabian denied the existence of such atmosphere, however. He said such incidents result from a lack of the appropriate social “culture” in Armenia.

“The whole society has a share of the blame,” he said. “In that sense all of us, including Ruben Hayrapetian, are responsible.”

Hayrapetian, who also heads the Armenian Football Federation, has faced opposition allegations of politically motivated violence in the past.
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