Just two days after claiming that he left Armenia, law-enforcement authorities interrogated on Saturday a notorious son of a provincial governor in connection with fresh violence reportedly provoked by him.
It remained unclear, however, whether they will press charges against Tigran Khachatrian, a 21-year-old man who confessed to shooting and killing a man in the town of Goris two years ago. The town is part of Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province governed by Khachatrian’s father Suren.
A spokesman for the Armenian police told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Tigran Khachatrian visited a police station in Goris to answer questions relating to the May 2 beating of two men in Goris. The official, Ashot Aharonian, refused to comment further.
The Investigative Committee, a law-enforcement body conducting an inquiry into the incident, likewise said that Khachatrian “willingly turned up for questioning.” It gave no details of his interrogation and did not clarify whether he is risking prosecution.
The committee claimed as recently as on Thursday that the Syunik governor’s son is “absent” from the country. It had faced a barrage of media criticism because of its failure to interrogate him immediately after the violent assault, which left the 32-year-old Harut Zakarian and his brother Mushegh seriously injured.
The brothers claim that the attackers were led by Khachatrian. The latter has denied any involvement through his father and other government officials in Syunik.
So far the Investigative Committee has not levelled accusations against anybody in connection with the May 2 incident, reinforcing a widely held belief that Suren Khachatrian and his extended family enjoy impunity. The governor and some of his relatives have a long history of violent conduct.
The latest incident occurred almost two years after Tigran and his father’s bodyguards clashed with businessman Avetik Budaghian and his brother Artak outside the Khachatrians’ Goris villa. Avetik was shot dead while Artak was seriously wounded in the incident.
Tigran and one of the bodyguards were arrested in the following days only to be cleared of murder charges and set free two months later. Law-enforcement authorities said the fatal gunshots fired by them constituted legitimate self-defense.
Despite denying any involvement, Suren Khachatrian was sacked in the wake of the shootings. But he was reinstated as Syunik governor a year later. He claimed that he slept at home and did not even hear the gunshots.
Lawyers for the Budaghian family have dismissed these assurances, saying that the governor may well have participated in the bloodshed. One of the lawyers, Hayk Alumian, alleged on Monday the disappearance of important evidence that could shed light on the 2013 shootings.
Alumian said military investigators dealing with the case have deliberately failed to examine some of the phone calls which Suren Khachatrian made shortly before, during and right after the shootout with the Budaghian brothers. He also accused Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) of failing to comply with a court decision allowing the investigators to wiretap the phones of three individuals close to Khachatrian.
The decision was made in the immediate aftermath of the Goris shooting. The NSS claims that it failed to record those phone calls for “technical” reasons.
The Armenian Defense Ministry’s Investigative Department could not be reached for comment on Monday.