The lawyer for the arrested son of Suren Khachatrian, a controversial former governor of Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province, has demanded that law-enforcement authorities drop murder charges leveled against his client.
The young man, Tigran Khachatrian, and one of his father’s bodyguards were arrested following the June 1 shootout outside the ex-governor’s villa in Goris, a town in Syunik, which left one person dead. They both were charged with murder and illegal arms possession.
Suren Khachatrian’s men clashed with Avetik Budaghian, a 43-year-old local businessman, and his brother Artak for still unclear reasons. Avetik was shot dead while Artak, who is a senior army office, seriously wounded in the incident that led to Khachatrian’s sacking by the Armenian government.
Ruben Sahakian, a prominent lawyer representing Tigran Khachatrian, said on Thursday that he has petitioned military prosecutors investigating the shootings to close the criminal case against his client. Sahakian endorsed the official theory that the Budaghian brothers’ actions constituted an “armed assault.” He said Tigran Khachatrian’s actions were therefore “legitimate.”
“He acted within the bounds of necessary self-defense,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), citing footage of the incident filmed by security cameras. He acknowledged that Tigran was the one who shot and killed Avetik Budaghian.
Hayk Alumian, the lawyer for the victim’s brother, dismissed his colleague’s arguments, also pointing to the video posted on the Internet. “It is obvious that Tigran Khachatrian fired gunshots when the dispute was over,” he said.
Alumian earlier denounced the prosecutors for bringing assault charges against his client, who has the military rank of colonel and commands an Armenian army unit stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Goris shootout took place just hours after Governor Khachatrian hosted a dinner for several regional dignitaries, including the Budaghian brothers. He reportedly argued with Avetik Budaghian during that party.
The investigators said in their formal indictment of Artak Budaghian last month that the colonel rushed to Khachatrian’s villa and threatened to kill its residents after being told that his brother was beaten up in the governor’s car. They gave no further details.
The ex-governor, who has a long history of violent conduct, claims to have slept in his house as the two groups of armed men exchanged gunfire at its doorstep. Some of his critics have questioned this assertion.