A law-enforcement agency has again summoned Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian for interrogation over an arson attack reported ahead of a June 9 local election.
The election was held in the town of Abovian where Tsarukian has long held sway. Abovian’s BHK-backed incumbent Mayor Vahagn Gevorgian narrowly defeated his main challenger Grigor Gulian, who was nominated by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party. The car and apartment door of Gulian’s election campaign manager were set on fire early on Saturday.
The Investigative Committee planned to question Tsarukian as a witness in the case on Wednesday evening. However, the wealthy businessman leading Armenia’s largest parliamentary opposition force did not show up for interrogation.
Tsarukian said on Friday that he was offended by the summons because he suspects that investigators deliberately avoid identifying those responsible for the incident. “They offended me by sending the notification,” he told reporters. “Let them send it to the right place.”
Tsarukian stood by his claims that the attack was stage-managed in an attempt to discredit the Abovian mayor and scuttle his reelection. The BHK leader challenged the investigators to prove the opposite.
A spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, Naira Harutiunian, dismissed his explanation. “There is nothing offensive about being summoned for interrogation by an investigative body,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Harutiunian said that the committee sent a second summons to Tsarukian late on Thursday. She warned the tycoon against ignoring it as well. “We have the right to immediately detain him,” she said.
Tsarukian’s party controls the second largest number of seats in Armenia’s parliament. Its relations with the government have been tense of late.