“They also had firearms,” she told RFE/RL at Yerevan’s Erebuni Medical Center. “We heard three gunshots. As soon as Argishti’s wife and I heard noise we dashed out of the apartment and went downstairs. Fortunately, he wasn’t hit by bullets.”
She said the assailants were gone by the time they found the blood-stained journalist lying on the ground. “There are injuries all over his body and especially his head,” she said.
According to Harutyun Mangoyan, head of Erebuni’s intensive care unit, Kivirian did not sustain any gun wounds. “The skull injuries were deemed of medium severity,” he told RFE/RL.
The Armenian police swiftly announced a criminal investigation into the incident. A police statement said investigators visited the Erebuni hospital but were unable to question Kivirian because of his grave condition. The statement identified him as the director of a private law firm.
Kivirian is better known as the founding editor of the Armenia Today online news service. Its website, www.armtoday.net, was not operational on Thursday. Armenika Kivirian, who is also a journalist, declined to speculate about why her brother may have been attacked.
Kivrian’s wife, Lusine Sahakian, linked the attack to his professional activities. “Neither he, nor I have had any personal problems,” she told RFE/RL.
Sahakian could not say whether the beating may have been related to her own professional activities. She has risen to prominence in the past year as the defense lawyer of former Deputy Prosecutor-General Gagik Jahangirian, who was arrested shortly after publicly voicing support for opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian in February 2008.
Jahangirian was sentenced to three years in prison on highly controversial charges on March 23. Like her client, Sahakian rejected the charges as baseless and politically motivated throughout the high-profile trial. Armenia’s Court of Appeals is to start hearings on their appeal against the verdict soon.
When asked whether she or her husbands have received threats of late, Sahakian said: “I can’t mention concrete threats. But he did face harrassment before the incident.” She did not elaborate.
Kivirian’s beating was condemned by more than a dozen Armenian non-governmental organizations involved in media freedom and human rights advocacy. In a joint statement, they said it was made possible by the authorities’ failure to punish the perpeptrators of past attacks on journalists. A similar statement was also issued by Armen Harutiunian, the state human rights ombudsman.