By Ruben Meloyan
The editor of an Armenian sports newspaper who has been at loggerheads with an influential government-connected businessman reported on Tuesday a second arson attack on his car within a year.
The Toyota Prado belonging to Suren Baghdasarian of the “Football Plus” weekly and parked in a garage outside his central Yerevan apartment was completely destroyed by fire early in the morning. Baghdasarian said he believes it was deliberately set on fire.
The expensive SUV was already seriously damaged in February last year when an unknown assailant threw a Molotov cocktail onto one of its front seats through a broken window. Baghdasarian was then quick to point the finger at Ruben Hayrapetian, a wealthy parliamentarian heading the Armenian Football Federation. He described it as a “cheap act of revenge” for “Football-Plus” articles criticizing the scandalous refusal by Armenia’s soccer champions Pyunik Yerevan to play a top Azerbaijani team in Moscow.
Hayrapetian, who controls Pyunik and was incensed by the criticism, angrily denied the allegations.
The editor, who is also a veteran TV commentator of football games, was on Tuesday careful not to implicate anyone in the latest incident. “I have no evidence to blame anyone,” he told RFE/RL. “I’ve just become convinced that in our country a journalist has no right to drive an expensive car and that people of my profession are not protected against violence.”
Law-enforcement authorities swiftly launched criminal proceedings in connection with the apparent arson attack. But Baghdasarian was highly skeptical about the inquiry, arguing that police failed to arrest and punish anyone last year. He said he will therefore not give any testimony to investigators.