By Karine Kalantarian and Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia’s most radical opposition party blamed the authorities on Monday for a weekend attack on one of its most senior and prominent members, describing it as an “act of political intimidation.”
Suren Abrahamian, a former interior minister and mayor of Yerevan, was reportedly ambushed and beaten up by unknown assailants near his house on Sunday morning, sustaining injuries that did not require hospitalization. He says one of them demanded that he “apologize” for his statements but did not specify to whom.
Abrahamian, who is affiliated with the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, is known as a bitter detractor of Armenia’s current leadership and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian in particular. In his most recent statements, he has primarily targeted Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, branding the latter as a “criminal element.”
Abrahamian and other Hanrapetutyun leaders were therefore quick to publicly suggest that the attack might have been ordered by Markarian. “Whether or not he ordered the attack, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian is responsible for what happened,” the ex-minister told a news conference. “There is no question about that.”
“I don’t rule out any of the theories,” said Aram Sarkisian, the party’s outspoken chairman. “After all, who should Suren Abrahamian apologize to?”
But Markarian strongly denied any involvement in the attack, describing it as “condemnable.” “I have always been calm about such behavior of my political rivals and have never lowered myself to that level,” he said in a written statement relayed to RFE/RL by a government spokeswoman.
Tigran Torosian, speaker of the Armenian parliament and a close associate of Markarian, also shrugged the opposition suspicions. “I think the incident was a provocation and regret that Mr. Abrahamian bought into that provocation,” he said.
The Hanrapetutyun leaders and other prominent opposition figures insisted, however, that the daylight beating resulted from Abrahamian’s active involvement in an “anti-criminal movement” launched recently by more than a dozen Armenian opposition groups. The movement’s stated aim is to counter what the opposition claims is a growing presence of “criminal elements” in the ruling regime. The governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which is co-headed by Markarian and Sarkisian is specifically accused of harboring such elements.
“The government or a part of it, which is totally criminalized, is showing its true face,” said Aram Karapetian, the leader of the Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) party who helped to set up the “anti-criminal” coalition, said, commenting on the reported beating. Karapetian said he is undaunted by the violence and will soon name government ministers allegedly engaged in criminal activities.
The Armenian police, meanwhile, said they will do their best to track down those who attacked their former chief. “Measures are being taken to identify and punish the criminals,” read a brief police statement.
(Photolur photo: Suren Abrahamian.)