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Armenian Minister Resigns After Assault


Armenia -- Minister of High-Tech Industry Hakob Arshakian speaks at a press conference in Yerevan, December 18, 2019.

Armenia’s Minister of High-Tech Industry Hakob Arshakian announced his resignation on Wednesday almost two weeks after assaulting a journalist at a restaurant in Yerevan.

“As a citizen of the Republic of Armenia, I find it unacceptable for an official to use violence against any citizen,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Arshakian referred to a violent incident at the restaurant where he dined with his wife on March 18. Footage from a security camera publicized afterwards showed him hitting Paylak Fahradian, the editor of the Irakanum.am news website, in the face and damaging his laptop computer.

The assault reportedly occurred moments after Fahradian approached Arshakian and asked him to explain why he is not at work.

The video sparked an uproar from Armenian journalists and media associations. Some of them demanded the minister’s resignation.

Law-enforcement authorities pledged to investigate the assault. The Special Investigative Service told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Wednesday it has yet to decide whether to prosecute Arshakian.

In his first reaction to the incident, Arshakian implicitly accused Fahradian of violating his privacy but said he is ready to bear responsibility for his actions. He later apologized to the journalist.

Rumors about Arshakian’s resignation began circulating on Wednesday morning. A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian pointedly declined to refute them.

Arshakian confirmed his resignation in the afternoon. “I am thereby expressing my intolerance towards both physical and psychological violence,” he said. “I hope that the incident will serve as a lesson for our society and that we will love each other and respect everyone’s right to privacy a bit more.”

Arshakian is a senior member of Pashinian’s Civil Contract party. He has held the ministerial post since October 2018.

The 35-year-old also found himself in hot water earlier this year after it emerged that his ministry, which oversees the domestic defense industry, failed to properly organize Armenia’s participation in an international arms exhibition held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Armenian government had allocated 23 million drams ($44,000) for that purpose.

Armenian defense firms displayed no items at the Abu Dhabi exhibition for at least three days. Arshakian blamed that on “logistical problems.”

The Ministry of High-Tech Industry said on Tuesday that three of its officials have been formally reprimanded as a result of an internal inquiry conducted after the scandal.

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