A group of Armenian human rights activists have urged prosecutors to launch criminal proceedings against a controversial pro-government lawmaker who has threatened to “behead” those who offend Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian or members of his family.
The deputy, Arakel Movsisian, voiced the threats a week ago following a libel suit which Ohanian’s wife, Ruzanna Khachatrian, filed a libel suit against the Yerevan daily “Hraparak.” Khachatrian is seeking a public retraction of a recent article that blamed her for the death of a well-known businessman’s son.
“Those bastards are not as guilty as their patrons,” Movsisian said in remarks circulated through the Internet. “Their patrons must definitely be found and beheaded. God willing, I’ll catch and personally behead them.”
“If, God forbid, we catch them, they’ll definitely get raped,” he added, arguing that Ohanian is a “national hero” who deserves utmost respect.
In a letter sent to the Office of the Prosecutor-General this week, several Armenian human rights campaigners said Movsisian’s statements amount to death threats that are punishable under Armenian law. “In terms of the uniformity of enforcing laws, Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General has reason to open a criminal case,” one of them, Artur Sakunts, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday.
A spokesperson for the prosecutors said they will decide within the next ten days whether to launch a formal criminal investigation. Few expect them to take such action.
Earlier this week, the Armenian parliament’s Ethics Commission made clear that it will not consider disciplinary action against Movsisian. Its chairwoman, Arpine Hovannisian, cited the absence of any formal complaints against him lodged to the commission.
Parliament speaker Galust Sahakian likewise refused to condemn the fellow deputy representing President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Sahakian said that the death threats should not be understood literally.
Zhanna Aleksanian, a veteran journalist specializing in human rights issues, scoffed at Sahakian’s comments. “How can rape be understood figuratively?” she said. “Maybe there is a need for a new interpretation of this term. Let Galust Sahakian do that.”
Aleksanian also noted that Movsisian is notorious for his abusive rhetoric directed at critics of Sarkisian but has never been punished for it before.