An Armenian army officer, who reportedly threatened to blow up a Yerevan restaurant where one of his colleagues was beaten to death, received on Thursday a four-month prison sentence meaning that he will be set free in the less than a month.
Lieutenant-Colonel Vartan Samvelian, the deputy commander of an army regiment, burst into the Harsnakar restaurant with a hand grenade, a bomb detonator and a large amount of explosive materials early on July 1. He reportedly threatened to set off a powerful explosion to avenge the death of Vahe Avetian, an army doctor assaulted by restaurant staff on June 17. Avetian died in hospital on June 29.
Samvelian, 39, surrendered to the police after three-hour negotiations with senior law-enforcement officers. He was subsequently charged with illegal arms possession and trafficking. State prosecutors made no mention of the bomb attack allegedly threatened by the officer during his short trial in a Yerevan district court.
Samvelian likewise did not explain why he went to the now-infamous restaurant on that night. He only pleaded guilty to the accusations.
“With that ammunition I didn’t cause harm to any person or building,” Samvelian told the court in his concluding remarks. “If there was any damage, it was caused to my family and myself. I lost my liberty and my beloved work.”
The presiding judge, Armen Vartapetian, responded by sentencing the defendant to four months in prison. Samvelian will complete it on November 1.
Six men officially listed as Harsnakar employees went on a separate trial on September 13 on charges of brutally beating Avetian and two other military doctors in disputed circumstances. Lawyers for Avetian’s family have strongly criticized a criminal investigation that preceded the trial. They say that the Armenian police failed to properly investigate restaurant owner Ruben Hayrapetian’s possible involvement in the violence.
Hayrapetian is a wealthy businessman with close ties to the country’s political leadership. He has vehemently denied ordering or condoning the assault.