By Karine Kalantarian
The owner of an embattled television station in the Armenian town of Abovian denied on Monday rumors that he was kidnapped by those who attacked him late last month. But Artashes Mehrabian, who reportedly disappeared in mysterious circumstances on Friday, claimed that he faced serious threats from individuals close to the local mayor.
In a letter to President Robert Kocharian and the country’s top law-enforcement officials, Mehrabian asked for government protection, saying that his life is now in danger.
Relatives and colleagues of Mehrabian rang alarm bells at the weekend after his longer-than-expected absence from home. The director of the Abovian television, Azniv Chizmechian, told the media that her boss called her on Friday morning, telling her to stop the private channel’s broadcasts until his return. He showed up only late Sunday.
Mehrabian claimed on Monday that he made the phone call from Yerevan immediately after three unknown men told him to shut down his channel until the October 20 local elections or face more trouble. He said he then travelled to Nagorno-Karabakh where he heard reports the next day about his alleged kidnapping.
Mehrabian and Chizmechian were reportedly attacked and beaten up on August 24 by a group of young men they say were sent by Abovian Mayor Karo Israelian. Israelian has denied the charges and accused the independent television of supporting his political opponents.
Police in Abovian said the inquiry into the incident is now under the personal control of Kocharian. Nobody has been charged yet.