The Armenian government hastily dismissed on Wednesday a reputedly violent bodyguard of Suren Khachatrian, the controversial governor of the Syunik province, after it emerged that he also works as deputy director of a local public school.
Zarzand Nikoghosian’s hitherto unknown position at the Secondary School No. 6 of the provincial capital Kapan was revealed by Armenian media earlier in the day. The revelation caused shock among political commentators and on social media, with many pointing to Nikoghosian’s history of violent conduct directly or indirectly connected with his boss.
In particular, Nikoghosian was arrested, along with Khachatrian’s notorious son Tigran, two years ago after shooting to death one man and wounding another outside the governor’s villa in Goris, another Syunik town. They both were charged with murder and illegal arms possession only to be freed two months later. Law-enforcement authorities said their actions constituted legitimate self-defense.
The bodyguard, who is officially listed as an “assistant” to Suren Khachatrian, has also been linked with other violent incidents in recent years. As recently in July, he admitted vandalizing a Kapan shop belonging to one of four men arrested earlier this summer on charges of attempting to assassinate Khachatrian.
Just hours after the shock news made headlines on Armenian news websites, Education Minister Armen Ashotian announced that he has discussed the matter Syunik officials and that Nikoghosian has been dismissed as deputy director of the Kapan school. “I want to thank media outlets for their speedy work,” Ashotian wrote on his Facebook page. He did not comment further.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) shortly before Ashotian’s statement, the school director, Marine Davtian, said that she hired Nikoghosian to work as her deputy recently because of his “moral authority” among schoolteachers, students and their parents.
“Believe me, the children love and respect him a lot,” Davtian said from Kapan. “He is also respected by their parents and teachers.”
The school principal could not be reached for comment after the announcement of Nikoghosian’s dismissal.
The 37-year-old bodyguard, who is not a Syunik native, has also worked in the school as a physical education teacher for the past couple of years. The Syunik governor told Armtimes.com later on Wednesday that he will retain that part-time job.