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Lawyers, Activists Allege Police Cover-Up Of Yerevan Restaurant Death


Armenia - Hundreds of people demonstrate outside the Harsnakar restaurant in Yerevan, 8Jul2012.

Armenia - Hundreds of people demonstrate outside the Harsnakar restaurant in Yerevan, 8Jul2012.

Lawyers representing the family of the late military doctor Vahe Avetian accused the Armenian police on Monday of deliberately botching a criminal investigation into his violent death at a Yerevan restaurant owned by a government-linked businessman.

One of the lawyers, Lusine Hakobian, said police investigators have glossed over important facts to clear the businessman, Ruben Hayrapetian, of any involvement in the June 17 assault on Avetian and his friends and colleagues.

Hakobian and another Avetian family attorney, Tigran Yegorian, have repeatedly demanded that Hayrapetian at least be treated as a suspect in the high-profile case. The police insist that they have no grounds to suspect six men arrested on assault charges of having acted on the tycoon’s orders.

All suspects are officially listed as employees of the Harsnakar restaurant. Hakobian claimed that in fact most of them worked as Hayrapetian’s personal bodyguards and escorted him on June 17. She rejected the authenticity of employment contracts purportedly showing that the arrested men worked as security guards at the restaurant.

“Knowing our criminal-oligarchic system, it is evident that without their master’s knowledge the bodyguards would not have done anything illicit,” the lawyer told a joint news conference with civic activists campaigning for a fair and objective probe of the 33-year-old doctor’s death.

Their campaign has involved a series of street demonstrations outside the now infamous restaurant, Hayrapetian’s nearby house and key government buildings. The protests forced the controversial tycoon to resign later in June as parliament deputy representing President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Still, he strongly denies ordering or condoning the brutal beatings that cast a renewed spotlight on the notoriously violent behavior of burly men working for the country’s influential “oligarchs.”

The campaigners on Monday also condemned the police inquiry and alleged that Hayrapetian had a hand in the violence. They claimed that the Armenian authorities are reluctant to hold him accountable because of a presidential election due in February.

“We have elections coming up and losing a person like Ruben Hayrapetian with such a financial and criminal network would be hard for the ruling regime,” one of them, Zara Hovannisian, said.

Hayrapetian, who also heads the Armenian Football Federation, has long faced opposition allegations of carrying out vote falsifications and bullying opposition proxies during national elections. He and the ruling HHK have always denied that.
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