WASHINGTON (A.W.)–The wave of condemnation, outrage, and protests over the killing of Vahe Avetyan on June 17 continues to build in Armenia and the Diaspora. Here in the U.S., the ARF Eastern Region Central Committee contacted Armenia’s ambassador to the U.S., Tatoul Markarian on July 6, to condemn the crime committed at the Harsnakar restaurant in Avan. Ambassador Markarian, in turn, condemned the crime and noted that the authorities are doing their best to hold the perpetrators accountable and prevent such incidences from occurring again in the future.
On the West Coast, a delegation from the ARF Western U.S. Central Committee met with Armenia’s consul general to Los Angeles on July 3 to discuss the Harsnakar killing. The delegation expressed the ARF’s concerns and outrage over the incident, and the expectation that those arrested will be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.
The owner of Harsnakar, Ruben Hayrapetyan, also known as oligarch “Nemets Rubo,” resigned from Parliament on July 3 following a meeting with President Serge Sarkisian. Hayrapetyan is a member of the ruling Republican Party. Three military doctors were beaten in Harsnakar on June 17 and one, Major Vahe Avetyan, died on June 29 from severe head trauma. A public outcry, and petitions demanding Hayrapetyan’s resignation, followed soon after.
“I can’t forgive myself and I don’t know how to ask for forgiveness,” Hayrapetyan said in his resignation letter. “I would have given anything to be there on that ominous night, to grab the fists that hit those young men, and to stop this tragedy that stole a life, destroyed families, and left children orphaned. But I cannot. Vahe is no longer with us; and I have to live with that; and I have to look in the eyes of his family members. I don’t know how,” he added.
Harsnakar is a grand-scale restaurant and function hall where extravagant wedding parties are held. Hayrapetyan owns numerous other business ventures, among them the Bjni mineral water company (which bottles Bjni and Noy), a hotel called Harsnakar on Lake Sevan, and a bank. He is also the president of Armenia’s Football Federation.
Hayrapetyan was questioned on July 6 as a possible witness in the crime, Arsen Ayvazyan from the police Inspectorate General of Criminal Investigations told reporters. Although Hayrapetyan maintains that he left Harsnakar some two hours before the attack on the three victims, some have alleged that he ordered the beatings over the phone. According to Ayvazyan, the police will investigate the phone conversations between the perpetrators and Hayrapetyan once they obtain recordings from the telephone companies per order of the court.
Ayvazyan, however, told reporters that “in their testimonies, neither the victims nor the suspects or witnesses gave any information regarding Ruben Hayrapetyan’s involvement… And in these circumstances, with no evidence of his involvement in the criminal case, naturally we cannot speak of arresting or charging him.”
It has been alleged that Hayrapetyan’s personal bodyguard, Garik Markaryan, inflicted the fatal injuries on Avetyan. Yet, Ayvazyan said the perpetrators were not Hayrapetyan’s bodyguards, and that they all worked at the restaurant, adding that some had escorted Hayrapetyan “on some special occasions.”
It is yet to be seen how the police handle the investigation. Public distrust towards the police and the judicial branch has given way to demonstrations staged around Harsnakar. The widespread belief is that the oligarchs and their entourage have remained above the law.