Law-enforcement authorities on Monday pledged to investigate an overnight attack on a video blogger highly critical of Armenia’s government, which was reportedly carried out by a youth group at loggerheads with him.
The blogger, Narek Malian, was confronted outside his home in downtown Yerevan by members of the group called Restart shortly after midnight. A YouTube video of the incident showed the Restart leader, Davit Petrosian, and several other men forcibly carrying Malian along an adjacent street before being stopped by police officers.
Petrosian posted the video on his Facebook page, writing: “There are moments in life when you can’t choose between the good and the bad and just have to listen to your conscience.”
In a statement, Restart said it wanted to throw Malian into a trash container. Petrosian likewise explained that he and his comrades tried “put the garbage in its place” in response to what he called Malian’s offensive and slanderous statements about their activities.
Malian, Petrosian, and four other men were detained on the spot but set free a few hours later. The Armenian police said afterwards that they are “preparing materials” for an inquiry.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General reported later on Monday that it has opened a formal criminal case in connection with the incident. It said the investigation will be conducted under an article of the Criminal Code dealing with “hooliganism.”
Malian, who worked until last year as an adviser to former police chief Vladimir Gasparian, described the assault as a “kidnapping attempt” and blamed the Armenian branch of U.S. philanthropist George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF) for it. He said that Restart is financed by the OSF. The latter did not immediately react to the accusation.
Malian linked the incident to his vocal efforts to prevent the sacking of the long-serving rector of Yerevan State University (YSU), Aram Simonian, which is sought by the government. The former police official last week staged a lone protest at a meeting of YSU’s supervisory board that narrowly failed to fire Simonian.
Restart has on the contrary been campaigning for the controversial rector’s ouster since last year’s “velvet revolution” in Armenia. The youth group comprising current and former YSU students actively participated in the revolution.
By contrast, Malian has been very scathing about the dramatic regime change in the country. He regularly attacks Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and other government officials and pours scorn on their supporters on his Facebook page.
Incidentally, Pashinian was quick to condemn the assault. “Any attempt to solve issues in Armenia through violence must meet with a tough legal reaction,” he said in a statement. “In the New Armenia all those who follow the logic of violence, deceit and spread of lies act against Armenia, against democracy and against the people.”