Police Toughen Charges Against Restaurant Assault Suspects

The Armenian police have toughened criminal charges against six men arrested for beating up to death a military doctor at a Yerevan restaurant in June, it emerged on Wednesday.

The men, most of them security guards working at the Harsnakar restaurant, were initially charged under one article of the Criminal Code dealing with deliberate physical injuries. They risked between five and ten years’ imprisonment.

Arsen Ayvazian, a high-ranking official from the police Inspectorate General of Criminal Investigations, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that investigators formally accused them on Tuesday of three counts of assault that could result in lengthier prison sentences. One of the accusations relates to violent attacks resulting in deaths.

Ayvazian attributed the police decision to the fact that the victim, Vahe Avetian, died in hospital about two weeks after the June 17 incident.

Avetian and two other army medics were beaten up at Harsnakar and hospitalized in still unclear circumstances. The police have been facing calls from opposition groups and civic campaigners to prosecute only the assailants but the restaurant’s government-linked owner, businessman Ruben Hayrapetian. Police investigators say there is no evidence of Hayrapetian’s direct involvement in the incident.

About 30 protesters gathered outside the Inspectorate General of Criminal Investigations later on Thursday to again express concern about what they say is a possible police cover-up of the high-profile crime. They also voiced support for two lawyers representing Avetian’s family.

The lawyers, Tigran Yegorian and Lusine Hakobian, on Wednesday accused the police investigators of refusing to give them copies of the criminal case in breach of Armenian law. Yegorian and Hakobian visited the powerful police unit during the demonstration. They said afterwards that they were finally given access to the documents.