A 73-year-old businesswoman affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) has been arrested on suspicion of plotting the contract killing of a wealthy lawmaker who quit the country’s second largest parliamentary force recently.
Gohar Yenokian, who also held a parliament seat from 2007-2012, was taken into custody late on Monday. In a statement released the following day, Armenia’s Investigative Committee said she is suspected of “preparing a murder” but did not elaborate. The law-enforcement body did not formally charge her as of Tuesday evening.
According to news reports citing her lawyer, Yenokian is facing prosecution on charges of trying to have Karo Karapetian, a fellow entrepreneur and pro-government deputy, killed. Her alleged motives are not clear.
Both Yenokian and Karapetian have for years been senior members of the BHK and had a warm rapport its founder, Gagik Tsarukian. Karapetian as well as several other wealthy BHK lawmakers defected from the party after Tsarukian’s mounting tensions with President Serzh Sarkisian flared up into an open confrontation in February. Tsarukian capitulated in the standoff, resigning as BHK leader and retiring from politics as a result.
The BHK’s current chairwoman, Nair Zohrabian, was allowed to visit Yenokian in custody on Monday night. She told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) afterwards that the elderly woman strongly denies the charges that could be levelled against her.
Zohrabian reserved judgment on the merits of the unexpected criminal case, saying only that it is not connected with internal BHK affairs. But she did demand that Yenokian be set free pending investigation because of her age and “poor health.”
The BHK’s parliamentary faction backed this demand, urging all 131 members of the National Assembly to sign a petition calling for the release of their former colleague. It collected only 34 signatures as of Tuesday evening.
A former member of the Communist Party, Yenokian was a well-known director of a state-run textile factory in Yerevan in the 1980s. She became one of its owners following the Soviet collapse.