Law-enforcement authorities have filed another criminal charge against the embattled mayor of an Armenian town stemming from violent attacks on opposition supporters who protested against the country’s longtime leader, Serzh Sarkisian, in April.
Mayor Davit Hambardzumian of Masis, who is affiliated with Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), was detained and charged late last month with organizing one such assault in Yerevan on April 22.
The incident occurred 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 masked men wielding sticks and even electric shock guns.
Hambardzumian denied any involvement in the attack. A Yerevan court refused to allow investigators to keep him and four other suspects in pre-trial detention. They all were set free three days after their arrest.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee said on Monday that it has collected “factual evidence” of the Masis mayor’s involvement in another violent incident reported later on April 22. Residents of the southern Ararat province encompassing Masis were attacked by a smaller group of other individuals as they marched to Yerevan to take part in an anti-government rally.
According to an Investigative Committee statement, four protesters sustained major injuries as a result. One of them was shot and wounded.
The law-enforcement agency claimed to have identified the shooter. It said the suspect, a Masis resident, is now on the run.
The statement insisted that Hambardzumian was also among the attackers. He was formally charged with grave “hooliganism” on Sunday, it said. If convicted, the mayor will risk between four and seven years in prison.
Hambardzumian, 32, was elected mayor in 2016 with the help of the HHK. Eight senior parliamentarians representing the former ruling party called for his release from custody following his arrest a month ago.