By Ruzanna Stepanian
A controversial brother of Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian is trying to make amends with a young journalist whom he reportedly insulted and threatened with dire consequences for writing an article that cast him in negative light, it emerged on Friday.
Eyewitnesses said parliament deputy Aleksandr Sarkisian approached Taguhi Tovmasian of the “Iravunk” newspaper in the National Assembly lobby on Thursday to express “regrets” about his actions. “How can I do any harm to a young reporter?” he said, according to them.
Sarkisian, who is also a wealthy businessman, was reported to have verbally abused Tovmasian and promised to cause her serious “problems” late last month after she reported that he brawled with several reputed crime figures during a birthday party at a Yerevan restaurant on May 2. The report also claimed that some of those men boarded an Armenian airliner that crashed off the Russian Black Sea coast a few hours later.
Sarkisian is said to have explained that he “lost my nerve” because he felt that Tovmasian somehow implicated him in the crash that killed all 113 people on board the Airbus A320 plane. But he stopped short of apologizing for the outburst.
“We have been feeling for the last couple of days that Mr. Sarkisian is trying to settle the matter,” said Hrant Khachatrian, leader of a small opposition party that controls “Iravunk.” “He approached Taguhi Tovmasian and told her that she is as old as his daughter and that he was never serious about his threats. He then came up to me.”
Khachatrian told RFE/RL that he and “Iravunk” will not consider the issue closed until Sarkisian “repents publicly,” adding that he still fears for the journalist’s safety. “I would be satisfied with any statement that would eliminate dangers which I believe are still facing Taguhi Tovmasian,” he said.
In a May 24 letters to the Armenian police, the Prosecutor-General’s Office and the National Security Service (NSS), the “Iravunk” management demanded that criminal proceedings be launched against Sarkisian. The newspaper editor, Hayk Babukhanian, said on Friday that none of the three law-enforcement agencies has responded to the letter so far. He predicted that they will not dare to prosecute a close relative of Armenia’s second most powerful official.
“The prosecutor’s office will not take on the [governing] clan,” Babukhanian told RFE/RL. “In fact, it protects the interests of the clan.”
A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General’s Office promised to comment on the scandal on Monday.
(Armenian parliament photo: Aleksandr Sarkisian.)