The more than a dozen young members of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) were beaten up by a larger group of men on December 27 as they urged residents of a central Yerevan constituency to vote for Nikol Pashinian, a jailed opposition leader, in the January 10 ballot. Five of them suffered serious injuries and required hospitalization.
The HAK blamed the attack on Pashinian’s main government rival, Ara Simonian, and the local chapter of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Both Simonian and the HHK denied any involvement.
The Armenian police said on Thursday that they have charged two local residents, Vahan Nadaghian and David Simonian, with provoking the incident and will send the criminal case to a court in the coming days. A police spokesman told RFE/RL that the two government loyalists have been charged under Criminal Code articles that carry fines and up to two months’ imprisonment.
HAK representatives shrugged off the indictments, saying that Nadaghian and Simonian should have been facing more serious accusations. They also said that the police have failed to identify other attackers.
According to Armen Khachatrian, the HAK’s top legal counsel, the lawyers of the injured opposition youths will therefore demand that the police launch a new and “full-fledged” investigation into the incident. Khachatrian also claimed that the indicted men coordinated the alleged vote rigging and intimidation of opposition proxies in two polling stations on election day.
Official vote results gave victory to the pro-government candidate. Pashinian and the HAK refused to concede defeat, alleging widespread fraud.
The election was also criticized by the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan. The Armenian authorities insisted, however, that it was largely democratic.