The mayor of an Armenian town and his deputy were suspended on Tuesday pending investigation into their alleged role in a violent attack on opposition supporters who demonstrated in Yerevan in April.
Mayor Davit Hambardzumian of Masis, who is affiliated with the former Republican Party (HHK), was detained and charged last week with organizing the assault carried out by several dozen masked men one day before HHK leader Serzh Sarkisian resigned as Armenia’s prime minister. He denies the accusations.
A Yerevan court refused on Saturday to allow law-enforcement authorities to keep Hambardzumian and four other suspects, among them Masis’s Deputy Mayor Karen Ohanian, in pre-trial detention. They all were set free in the courtroom.
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General has yet to say whether it will appeal against the court’s decision condemned by civic groups.
Instead, the law-enforcement agency announced on Tuesday that a prosecutor overseeing the criminal investigation into the April 22 incident has decided to suspend Hambardzumian and Ohanian in line with an article of the Armenian Criminal Code. A spokeswoman for the office, Arevik Khachatrian, said the two men could obstruct the probe if they continued to perform their local government duties.
The Armenian Ministry for Territorial Administration and the municipality of Masis, a small town about 10 kilometers south of Yerevan, have already been notified about the suspension, Khachatrian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The violence occurred in Yerevan’s southern Erebuni district just hours after Nikol Pashinian, the main organizer of mass protests against Sarkisian’s continued rule, was detained by security forces. Hundreds of Pashinian supporters demonstrating there were attacked by several dozen thugs wearing medical masks and wielding sticks and even electric shock guns.
Similar attacks were also reported in other parts of the Armenian capital. Pashinian’s political team blamed the HHK for them. The former ruling party denied any involvement in the violence.