A man arrested on charges of murdering a village mayor affiliated with the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) strongly denies any involvement in the high-profile crime, according to his lawyer.
Hrach Muradian, who governed Proshian village just west of Yerevan for almost eight years, was shot dead outside his office on April 2. Two village residents, Arayik Petrosian and his brother Artak, were arrested in connection with the killing two days later. Artak was released the following day, while Arayik was charged with murder and illegal arms possession and remanded in pre-trial custody.
The latter’s lawyer, Givi Hovannisian, said on Thursday that the Armenian police have failed to come up with any evidence of his client’s involvement. “Both the arrest and the accusations are illegal,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the police said forensic experts found on the 31-year-old Arayik Petrosian’s face traces of a chemical substance which they believe was emitted during a single gunshot fired at Muradian.
Hovannisian dismissed this assertion, saying that the metallic substance, antimony, is used in a variety of products and manufacturing processes. “Antimony is used in the welding process, battery plates and even cosmetics,” the lawyer said. “It’s possible that Arayik Petrosian was exposed to it in a social setting.” He noted in that regard that the suspect works for a water utility company.
The police investigators have yet to clarify whether they have found the weapon used in the crime.
Hakob Muradian, the slain mayor’s nephew, also cast doubt on Petrosian’s role in the killing. He described the suspect as a “clever and humble person” who was on good terms with Mayor Muradian.
“In our village, everyone suspects some people but not Petrosian,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He declined to name those individuals but noted in that context that tension in Proshian ran high during the last local election held in October.
Hrach Muradian was challenged at the time by a candidate of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Dashnaktsutyun has similarly cited this fact to allege political motives behind the shooting. A leader of the opposition party, Armen Rustamian, said last week that Muradian was at loggerheads with local HHK activists and other government loyalists throughout his eight-year tenure. He implied that some of them might have had a hand in the crime.
The HHK insisted afterwards that none of its members was behind the killing.