A man working for a controversial Armenian parliamentarian affiliated with the former ruling Republican Party (HHK) has been arrested on suspicion of assaulting anti-government protesters in Yerevan last month.
The incident occurred in the city’s northern Kanaker-Zeytun district on April 21, two days before HHK leader Serzh Sarkisian resigned as prime minister amid massive street protests against his decade-long rule. A group of men reportedly beat up and smashed the cars of people taking part in the protests led by Nikol Pashinian.
The Armenian police detained one of the presumed attackers, Andranik Isoyan, on Tuesday. He turned out to be an assistant to Mihran Poghosian, a wealthy HHK lawmaker who has long held sway in Kanaker-Zeytun.
Poghosian on Wednesday expressed hope that the arrest is the result of a “misunderstanding” and that Isoyan will be cleared of any wrongdoing. “I regret the fact that my assistant has found himself among a number of individuals who have been arrested or summoned by relevant bodies lately,” he said.
A senior member of Pashinian’s Yelk alliance, Zaruhi Batoyan, claimed earlier that the attackers arrived at the scene of the incident in cars belonging to Poghosian and his associates. Batoyan said she suspects that the parliamentarian was in one of those cars during the assault.
Poghosian categorically denied that. He also insisted that he did not order Isoyan or anybody else to attack the protesters.
Poghosian, who will turn 42 next week, ran an Armenian state body enforcing court rulings until getting embroiled in a corruption scandal two years ago. Citing leaked documents known as the Panama Papers, the Hetq.am investigative publication reported that he controls three shadowy companies registered in Panama.
After his initial denials of the report, Poghosian announced his resignation later in April 2016. Armenia’s Special Investigation Service (SIS) launched a criminal investigation at the time.
The SIS said in January 2017 that it will not press criminal charges against Poghosian because it has found no evidence of his involvement in “illegal entrepreneurial activity.” Shortly afterwards, the ruling HHK nominated him as a candidate for parliamentary elections held in April 2017.
Independent media outlets have for years accused Poghosian of having extensive business interests thanks to his government position and connections. In particular, he is widely regarded as the main owner of a company that enjoyed a de facto monopoly on banana imports to Armenia until recently.
The former official has also faced opposition allegations that a charity controlled by him bought votes for the HHK and Serzh Sarkisian in presidential and parliamentary elections. He has always denied them.