Arsen Titanian, who has run the village of Odzun since 2008, claims that Lori Governor Aram Khachatrian told him to tender his resignation during a tense meeting held in the provincial capital Vanadzor on June 23. He says he was assaulted by about a dozen other men moments after leaving Khachatrian’s office in the provincial administration building.
Khachatrian, who is affiliated with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, has admitted summoning Titanian to his office but denied demanding his resignation or ordering his beating.
Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) opened a criminal case days after the alleged incident but never detained or charged anyone.
Titanian’s lawyer, Mikael Shkhimian, said on Wednesday that all of the provincial administration officials questioned by the SIS denied beating up the village chief sympathetic to former President Robert Kocharian’s opposition Hayastan alliance.
Investigators were also told that security cameras installed inside the administration building were switched off during Titanian’s June 23 visit, Shkhimian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. Citing a lack of evidence, they decided to suspend the inquiry, he said.
The lawyer added that he will appeal against the decision. He argued, in particular, that a forensic medic certified during the probe that his client suffered several injuries to his face and head.
During the parliamentary election campaign Pashinian pledged to wage “political vendettas” against local government officials supporting the opposition. Shortly after his party swept to a landslide victory in the snap polls, Armenian media outlets reported that several provincial governors, including Khachatrian, are summoning such officials and pressuring them to resign.
“These people must resign and again participate in [local] elections to see whether or not people trust them,” the Lori governor told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on June 30.
The elected heads of five Lori communities stepped down in the following weeks. Odzun’s Titanian was not among them. The 51-year-old made clear that he intends to complete his fourth term in office next year.
With a population of more than 5,000, Odzun is one of the country’s largest rural communities.