Yet another activist highly critical of Armenia’s political leadership was beaten up and hospitalized in Yerevan at the weekend in an attack which he blamed on the authorities.
Vilen Gabrielian, an outspoken blogger and maverick campaigner, says he was attacked by four masked men in the city center on Saturday evening. He says they said nothing while punching and hitting him with wooden sticks.
Gabrielian, who goes under the name of “Navak Chochogh” (Boat Rocker) on online social networks, suffered a concussion and numerous injuries to his face and head. His deep cuts were stitched by doctors at a Yerevan hospital where he was taken shortly after the incident.
The Armenian police questioned Gabrielian but did not open a criminal case as of Monday evening. Nor did they identify any suspects in the attack.
Gabrielian on Monday attributed the violence to his anti-government comments regularly circulated on the Internet. He singled out his recent verbal attacks on Vladimir Gasparian, the national police chief, saying that they sparked verbal abuse and threats on Facebook from a user who identifies himself as Artur Kirakosian.
“I suspect that the main mastermind [of the beating] is Vova Gasparian,” Gabrielian charged in comments to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He challenged the police general to disprove this theory by solving the case.
Gabrielian’s beating came one month after a spate of similar attacks on five opposition politicians and activists who actively participated in a series of anti-government demonstrations organized by Armenia’s three leading opposition parties. One of them, Aram Manukian, is a parliament deputy representing the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
The police have charged but not arrested a man who has confessed to attacking Manukian. The man claims that he acted for “patriotic” considerations in retaliation for the oppositionists’ offensive remarks about President Serzh Sarkisian.
Nobody has been prosecuted in connection with the other violent incidents. Nor have the police charged anyone in November arson attacks on six cars belonging to members of another opposition group.
“None of these cases has been solved,” Zhanna Aleksanian, a human rights writer, said on Monday, commenting on Gabrielian’s beating. “None of them will be solved until Vladimir Gasparian is the police chief,” she claimed.
The European Union’s office in Armenia expressed concern at the previous attacks on December 16. It warned that failure to punish their perpetrators could deepen “a sense of impunity” in the country.