A senior police official in Yerevan has been dismissed in connection with a reported assault on a journalist who covered an election campaign rally held by the ruling Republican Party (HHK) this week.
Hakob Karapetian, a reporter with the pro-opposition ilur.am news website, claims to have been beaten up by several organizers of the rally held in the city’s Nor Nork district on Tuesday. He says they attacked him after he refused to leave the site of the gathering that featured a speech by Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian, the HHK’s top candidate in the May 6 municipal elections.
According to Karapetian, the attackers were led by Ashot Papayan, a member of the city’s outgoing municipal council. Papayan, whose name is high on the ruling party’s electoral slate, has not commented on the allegations.
A police statement said that Gagik Amirjanian, the deputy chief of Nor Nork’s police department, was relieved of his duties as a result of an “internal inquiry” conducted after the incident. Two other, lower-ranking officers who maintained order at the rally got off with formal reprimands.
Karapetian was far from satisfied with these measures on Friday. He demanded that the police bring criminal charges against Papayan and other alleged attackers. “I can be satisfied only if a criminal case is opened in connection with the obstruction of my work and if it involves the individuals whose faces I remember,” the journalist told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Vladimir Gasparian, the Armenian police chief, said on Thursday that the police are investigating the incident but have not yet decided whether to prosecute anyone. “Investigators will decide whether there are grounds to open a criminal case,” he said.
Both Karapetian and Papayan were questioned at the Nor Nork police headquarters later on Friday. A police statement said the preliminary inquiry into the incident is continuing.
The reported beating has been condemned by the ruling HHK. “Any infringement on liberties is inadmissible,” the party spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, told reporters late on Thursday. But he would not say whether any punitive action will be taken against the HHK activists allegedly involved in the violence.