The son of a candidate challenging the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) in a small town near Yerevan was arrested and risked on Thursday criminal charges which his father linked with the upcoming mayoral election there.
The candidate, Avetik Dallakian, is one of three local members of the opposition-leaning Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) seeking to run for the post of mayor of Masis. They also include the town’s incumbent mayor, Dmitry Nazarian. The BHK leadership will decide next week which of them will challenge the HHK’s Sasha Hakobian in the election scheduled for September 9.
Police said that Dallakian’s 28-year-old son Volodya was taken into custody because of gunshots which he fired from a hunting rifle in a dispute with another local man outside his house late on Tuesday. A police statement said he is facing charges of grave hooliganism carrying between four and seven years in prison.
Dallakian’s parents condemned the arrest, saying that the young man fired in the air to scare away a large group of armed men which they said gathered outside the house and threatened to hurt him, his wife and children.
“How can they arrest a man whose house came under attack and gunfire?” said Volodya’s mother, Heriknaz Dallakian. “Shouldn’t he have protected his wife and children?”
Avetik Dallakian linked the arrest with the upcoming election, saying that the local HHK team is trying to force him out of the race. “When I nominated my candidacy at the last minute that caused a stir among them … And they have been working against us since then,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Dallakian said that two of his supporters were beaten up and several others bullied and shot at last week. He also claimed that the men who “attacked” his son are relatives of Murad Muradian, an HHK lawmaker from a Masis constituency.
Both Muradian and Hakobian denied the allegations. They also insisted that the incident had nothing to do with the election.
Masis was already the scene of a violent clash between two groups of men linked with the HHK and the BHK ahead Armenia’s last parliamentary elections held on May 6. One of those men, a BHK activist, suffered a fractured skull and underwent surgery as a result. Muradian described the situation in the town about 20 kilometers south of Yerevan as “very tense” at the time.