The Armenian police on Monday pressed charges against a notoriously violent son of Gyumri’s controversial former Mayor Vartan Ghukasian who has reportedly threatened to assault the latter’s successor and bitter rival.
Spartak Ghukasian was charged under a Criminal Code clause dealing with serious breaches of public order. It carries up to two years in prison.
The accusation stems from media reports that a gun-trotting Ghukasian shouted abuse and threats late on January 21 as he and his friends drove cars around the house of Samvel Balasanian, the current mayor of Armenia’s second largest city. A spokeswoman for the Ghukasian family has denied those reports, saying that they are part of a smear campaign waged against the ex-mayor.
A criminal investigation launched by the police has arrived at a different conclusion. Spartak Ghukasian was summoned to a local police station and questioned late last month before being formally charged. He was not remanded in pre-trial custody after signing a written pledge not to leave Gyumri pending investigation.
Ghukasian Jr. has a long of history of violent conduct which critics have blamed on an atmosphere of impunity created by his flamboyant father, who governed the city from 1999-2012. Vartan Ghukasian, himself no stranger to violence, was forced to resign and hand over power to Balasanian after President Serzh Sarkisian appeared to have lost patience with him.
The ex-mayor’s son spent six months in prison in 2007 for provoking an election-related street gunfight. He went into hiding in August 2012 after reportedly attacking and firing gunshots at a group of Balasanian supporters. He avoided imprisonment after returning to Gyumri later in 2012.
Ghukasian and his father were among two dozen men rounded up by the Gyumri police in April 2013 following the killing of a man connected to another local clan. Security forces confiscated dozens of assault rifles in a crackdown on both rival families that was ordered by Vladimir Gasparian, the chief of the national police service.
Gasparian appears to have been instrumental in the latest criminal proceedings launched against Spartak. He visited Gyumri just days after the incident outside the mayor’s villa. The police chief of Armenia’s northwestern Shirak province, of which Gyumri is the capital, was sacked as a result. Gasparian insisted, though, that the sacking is not connected with the incident.