The government on Thursday appointed a lawyer representing an arrested official accused of violent assault as governor of Armenia’s southeastern Vayots Dzor province.
The previous governor, Trdat Sargsian, announced his resignation on September 24 amid an investigation into his possible involvement in a violent dispute that left one man critically injured.
An aide to Sargsian was arrested on September 22 on charges of assaulting an Armenian army officer during the incident that occurred in the provincial capital Yeghegnadzor. Lieutenant-Colonel Ara Mkhitarian suffered severe injuries to his head and remains in a coma.
Mkhitarian’s relatives and friends say that he and other officers were attacked by a larger group of men that included Sargsian, a claim denied by the latter. Sargsian, who is a member of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, said he nevertheless decided to step down because he sees the need for “political responsibility in the New Armenia.”
The new governor, Ararat Grigorian, is a Yeghegnadzor-born lawyer who has represented the arrested suspect. He downplayed this fact, saying that it does not mean that he was part of Sargsian’s entourage.
“If we think it could create an obstacle then every lawyer [in Armenia] will not be able to engage in any work other than legal practice,” Grigorian told reporters after attending a cabinet meeting in Yerevan that formalized his appointment.
The head of Armenia’s Investigative Committee, Hayk Grigorian (no relation to the new Vayots Dzor governor) said on Wednesday that the law-enforcement body is continuing to investigate Sargsian’s possible involvement in the violence.
Grigorian revealed that four witnesses, all of them army officers, have testified that Sargsian participated in the assault. However, he said, their testimony contradicts footage from a security camera suggesting that the ex-governor was at home during the incident.