Armenian law-enforcement authorities have finished a criminal investigation into this year’s shock murder of a man who was about to marry a daughter of Gyumri’s former Mayor Vartan Ghukasian.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General said on Friday that the case has been sent to a court and another man charged with killing the 27-year-old Karen Yesayan in April will go on trial soon.
Yesayan was reportedly a permanent resident of the United States who arrived in Gyumri to marry Ghukasian’s elder daughter Manya. He was found shot dead in his car parked on a roadside several hours after going missing on the day of the planned ceremony of his engagement to her.
The Gyumri police were quick to arrest another young man, Harutyun Sargsian, and charge him with murder. According to police investigators, he shot and killed Yesayan because he also wanted to marry the then-mayor’s daughter.
Sargsian’s lawyer, Lusine Sahakian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that her client will plead not guilty to the charge. She said the investigators have failed to prove his involvement in the high-profile crime. In her words, there is no evidence that Sargsian owned the gun used in the killing, and fingerprints found on Yesayan’s cars do not match those of the accused man or any of his friends and relatives.
“Harutyun Sargsian does not know Manya Ghukasian personally,” Sahakian said. “There was never any relationship between them. Harutyun Sargsian had no intention to marry her, and it is not clear to us why he has been prosecuted.”
But Vartuhi Elbakian, the lawyer for Yesayan’s family, insisted that the police have prosecuted “the right person.” She said it has been proven that Sargsian followed the victim in the days leading up to the crime.
“It’s just that the accused person was not alone,” Elbakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We presume that somebody else helped him. The investigators have failed to answer this question. The crime has not been solved in full.”
Ghukasian resigned in September after 13 years at the helm of Armenia’s second city. The Gyumri mayor was dogged by controversy throughout his political career. He earned notoriety for his flamboyant behavior that has occasionally turned violent.
In April 2007, Ghukasian narrowly survived an assassination attempt when unknown gunmen opened fire on his motorcade outside Yerevan, seriously wounding him and killing three of his bodyguards.