Vartan Ghukasian, the controversial former mayor of Gyumri, is facing fresh accusations of violent conduct one year after his resignation that was engineered by the Armenian government.
Ghukasian and several of his loyalists allegedly assaulted a man in Armenia’s second largest city on Tuesday during the trial of another local resident accused of murdering his daughter’s fiancé.
The murder took place in April last year. Karen Yesayan, a 27-year-old resident of the United States, was found shot dead in his car on the day of the planned ceremony of his engagement to Manya Ghukasian, the Gyumri mayor’s elder daughter.
Another young man, Harutyun Sargsian, was arrested in the ensuing criminal investigation shortly afterwards. The Gyumri police claim that he shot and killed Yesayan because he also wanted to marry Manya Ghukasian. Sargsian pleaded not guilty to the murder charge when he went on trial later in 2012.
After months of resistance Vartan Ghukasian appeared before a Gyumri court on Tuesday to give evidence in the high-profile case. The ex-mayor refused to answer questions from the defendant’s lawyer, labeling her as a “devil.” He stood by his pre-trial testimony and refused to testify further before storming out of the courtroom.
According to Sargsian’s relatives, Ghukasian and several men accompanying him then beat up the defendant’s father Samvel when they ran into him in the court lobby. Samvel Sargsian, who is a former senior officer in the local police, was reportedly taken to a Gyumri hospital. Doctors there said on Wednesday that he was injured in the right leg and had very high blood pressure.
A spokeswoman for Ghukasian refused to comment when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Wednesday.
Ghukasian served as Gyumri mayor for almost 13 years, enjoying the backing of President Serzh Sarkisian and his predecessor Robert Kocharian. His long rule was marred by frequent reports of violent incidents involving himself, his son and other relatives. Ghukasian, who is affiliated with Sarkisian’s Republican Party, resigned last summer after losing the central government’s support.
The flamboyant ex-mayor was briefly detained along with several relatives in April 2013 following a deadly shooting in Gyumri resulting from a long-running feud between his extended family and a rival local clan. One of his nephews was charged with the killing.
The Armenian police also confiscated large quantities of weapons from both clans. The national police chief, Vladimir Gasparian, vowed to put an end to their dominance of local affairs.