Armenian law-enforcement authorities claim to have failed to track down a notorious son of a regional governor after belatedly pledging to question him in connection with yet another violent assault allegedly provoked by him.
Tigran Khachatrian was reportedly among several dozen men who beat up and seriously injured two other local residents of his hometown, Goris, on May 2. Harut Zakarian lost vision in one eye while his elder brother Mushegh suffered a broken nose.
The brothers claim that the attackers were led by the 22-year-old Khachatrian, whose father Suren is the governor of Armenia’s Syunik province encompassing Goris. The governor, who himself has a long history of violent conduct, has insisted that his son is innocent.
The Investigative Committee, a law-enforcement body dealing with the criminal case, pledged to detain and question Tigran Khachatrian as a witness only on Tuesday, ten days after the violence, following a barrage of media criticism and renewed allegations of impunity enjoyed by the Khachatrian family.
The committee said two days later, however, that Khachatrian is “absent” from the country. It said it is taking all necessary measures to locate and interrogate the young man.
Khachatrian’s official status as a mere “witness” of the May 2 beatings means that the Armenian police will not launch a hunt for him.
The violence occurred almost two years after Tigran Khachatrian shot and killed a man outside his family’s home in Goris. He was arrested but cleared of murder charges and set free two months later. Law-enforcement authorities said the shooting constituted legitimate self-defense.
For his part, Suren Khachatrian, who is a senior member of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), was sacked by the Armenian government in connection with the killing. He was reinstated as Syunik governor a year later.
HHK representatives have been reluctant to comment on the latest embarrassing case involving the Goris clan. “Regardless of whose son, relative, friend or neighbor he is, if a person breaks the law he must be punished,” the party spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, said late on Thursday. “This is our position in general.”
“As for this particular case, I am not aware of its details,” Sharmazanov claimed.
Armenian opposition politicians, meanwhile, laughed off the authorities’ claims that they have been unable to get Khachatrian’s son to answer their questions about the May 2 incident. “They can track down and detain people within an hour when they want to,” quipped Gagik Jahangirian, a former senior prosecutor who is now a parliament deputy affiliated with the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
Levon Zurabian, another senior HAK figure, also scoffed at the Investigative Committee’s “Orwellian” explanation. He said the Khachatrian family is getting away with yet another crime because President Sarkisian continues to heavily rely on individuals like the Syunik governor in holding on to power.
“Their whole power is based on such characters who plunder the country with impunity and then rig elections with impunity, ensuring the regime’s survival,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday. “How can they punish people that form the basis of their power?”
Official results of Armenian elections held over the past decade have shown President Sarkisian and his Republican Party (HHK) winning more votes in Syunik than in any other part of the country.