By Hrant Aleksanian in Stepanakert
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) demanded on Wednesday the resignation of Nagorno-Karabakh’s top military commanders who are alleged to have severely beaten up a local activist of the influential party opposed to the unrecognized republic’s government.
Pavel Manukian, a prominent participant of the war with Azerbaijan who is affiliated with Dashnaktsutyun, was taken to a military hospital in Stepanakert on Tuesday with what his friends and relatives described as life-threatening injuries sustained during a visit to the Defense Ministry of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR).
According to the Dashnaktsutyun leadership in Karabakh, Manukian said after regaining consciousness that he was assaulted in the office of the NKR defense minister, General Seyran Ohanian. A Dashnaktsutyun statement quoted him as saying that Ohanian himself started the beating before being joined by other senior military commanders present in the room.
The Karabakh military has not yet commented on the allegations. Witnesses said Manukian, a decorated war veteran, was taken to the hospital by two army officers. The military did not allow reporters to interview him on Wednesday.
The incident heightened political tension in Karabakh in the wake of a weekend parliamentary election in which a bloc uniting Dashnaktsutyun and another local opposition group unsuccessfully challenged loyalists of NKR President Arkady Ghukasian. Official election results gave victory to the latter.
The opposition bloc called Dashnaktsutyun/Movement-88 denounced the vote as fraudulent. Manukian’s name was high on the list of its election candidates.
Ghukasian held an urgent meeting with Dashnaktsutyun/Movement-88 leaders late on Tuesday, pledging to thoroughly investigate the violent incident and punish the guilty. He visited the victim in the hospital earlier in the day.
Dashnaktsutyun’s Karabakh-based leaders, who are highly critical of the NKR leadership, appear skeptical about Ghukasian’s pledges. Their statement said that “high-ranking officials that took part in the incident” must be sacked and demanded that Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian personally ensure an “impartial” inquiry.
They also asked the Armenian Ministry of Health to send a team of “independent medical experts” that would examine Manukian’s condition and certify the cause of his injuries. Incidentally, the ministry is headed Norayr Davidian, a Dashnaktsutyun member. Two other Armenian cabinet members are also affiliated with the pan-Armenian nationalist party.
“We will do everything to solve the issue within the framework of the law,” said Vahan Badasian, a Dashnaktsutyun activist and a friend of Manukian’s. “The criminals must be identified.”
(Photolur photo: Manukian pictured during the war in 1992.)