Two activists involved in an attack on a video blogger highly critical of Armenia’s government have been charged with attempted kidnapping, a spokesperson for the country’s Prosecutor-General’s office said on Friday.
Following the incident that occurred earlier this month prosecutors originally opened criminal proceedings on the hallmarks of hooliganism. Later, due to new evidence that emerged in the case members of the Restart student group Davit Petrosian and Davit Simonian were charged with attempting to kidnap the blogger, Narek Malian. The two are confined to country limits pending investigation.
Malian was confronted outside his home in downtown Yerevan by members of the group shortly after midnight. A YouTube video of the incident showed the Restart leader, 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 “to 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 were set free a few hours later. Malian was later recognized as a victim in the case.
Originally, the investigation was 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”. He 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. Late last month the former police official 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, saying that “any attempt to solve issues in Armenia through violence must meet with a tough legal reaction.”