Citing a general amnesty declared last week, authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have dropped criminal charges levelled against four men in connection with a violent assault on a local opposition politician.
The outspoken politician, Hayk Khanumian, was kidnapped outside the Karabakh parliament building and driven outside Stepanakert before being beaten up by a group of men on June 6. He was severely injured and spent more than a week in hospital.
The attack came the day after Khanumian helped to rally hundreds of people who greeted General Samvel Babayan, a former commander of the Karabakh Armenian army, during his return to Karabakh after several years of self-imposed exile. He pledged to campaign for Babayan’s re-appointment as army chief.
Babayan, who had lived in Russia since 2011, has strongly criticized the Karabakh leadership in recent months.
Khanumian claimed to have assaulted by about two dozen men. The Karabakh police identified only four suspects, however.
They were initially charged with kidnapping. But the accusation was subsequently downgraded to “hooliganism,” making the suspects eligible for the general amnesty initiated by Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh president, and approved by the unrecognized republic’s parliament on August 25.
Khanumian on Tuesday portrayed the weakening of the charges as further proof that Sahakian personally ordered the attack that caused outrage in Karabakh and Armenia.
“Senior officials here never made secret of their desire to ensure that none of the culprits is punished,” Khanumian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We are only left to conclude that my beating and kidnapping was masterminded in the president’s office and with the president’s consent.”
Sahakian’s press secretary, Davit Babayan, strongly denied the allegation. He argued that the Karabakh leader was quick to condemn the June 6 attack and order law-enforcement bodies to solve it.
“There are no political motives involved,” Babayan said, referring to Karabakh prosecutors’ decision to close the high-profile criminal case because of the amnesty.
Khanumian leads an opposition party called National Revival and holds its sole seat in the Karabakh parliament.