YEREVAN — Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) rallied hundreds of supporters and threatened to boycott parliament sessions on Monday after one of its activists was kidnapped and beaten unconscious in Yerevan.
The activist, Artak Khachatrian, was found dumped onto a street near his home on Saturday about five hours after being attacked while walking in the city center with a friend, Narek Abrahamian. According to Abrahamian, three masked men forced Khachatrian into a car and drove away.
Vahan Babayan, a parliament deputy from the PAP, claimed to have received a phone call from Khachatrian at around the same time. “I could hear him say, ‘Don’t hit me; where are you taking me?’ I could hear the beating. Then I lost the line,” Babayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Khachatrian was rushed to Yerevan’s Malatia hospital where he underwent surgery for a broken nose on Sunday. A senior doctor there said the BHK activist will remain in the hospital for a week.
Khachatrian was one of the main speakers at recent demonstrations in Yerevan that were staged by small business owners protesting against a controversial tax law. The protests, strongly backed by the BHK, continued on a smaller scale last week despite the Armenian government’s decision to freeze the law by another five months.
In a statement on Sunday the PAP, in particular, said: “It is clear that the responsibility for what happened lies with the political authorities. We consider the supreme political power of the country to be the main party that is responsible for the gangster atmosphere and the arbitrariness that have been formed in the country and this power also bears personal responsibility for everything.”
“Instead of solving the accumulated problems, tackle the serious challenges facing the state and the people, ensuring the internal atmosphere of solidarity in the country, the political power chooses cowardly methods of kidnapping, stabbing in the back, beating,” the Political Council of the PAP said.
The governing board of Tsarukian’s party also instructed the PAP’s parliamentary faction, the second largest in the National Assembly, to consider boycotting parliament sessions together with its opposition allies.
One of those allies, the Armenian National Congress (ANC) deplored Khachatrian’s beating in even stronger terms on Sunday. The ANC linked it to a spate of similar attacks on five other opposition politicians and activists who actively participated in a series of nationwide demonstrations organized by the PAP, the ANC and another opposition party, Zharangutyun (Heritage) in the autumn.
“If the authorities’ aim is to turn Armenia into a gangster-infested Sicily then they must make an official statement to that effect,” Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK figure, told reporters during the protest.
The PAP activist was beaten up just two days after Tsarukian again blasted the Sarkisian administration’s economic track record and said the opposition trio will soon resume its campaign of anti-government street protests. Speaking at an opposition conference, the tycoon warned Sarkisian to abandon his plans for a sweeping constitutional reform or face a BHK push for his resignation.
It was announced on Monday that Tsarukian, ANC leader Levon Ter-Petrosian and Zharangutyun’s Raffi Hovannisian will meet on February 15 to discuss their further joint steps.