The Armenian opposition has called for an ‘urgent’ rally on Monday evening, blaming the ruling Civil Contract party for the recent bloody incident in the village of Nigavan, in Aragatsotn province that left two dead and one in critical condition. Law enforcement has since denied any political element to the killing.
Protesters marched from Yerevan’s France square to the Police department, National Security Service building and the ruling Civil Contract Party’s office, holding posters reading ‘stop terrorism’ and ‘stop the killer’.
The protesters poured red paint on the street in front of the ruling Civil Contract party's office and left toy guns in front of the entrance.
Opposition leaders blamed the Pashinyan administration for the incident, blaming them for allowing murders for political views. According to local pro-opposition media outlets citing anonymous sources, the shooting was preceded by a fight between a group of young people who ‘made unflattering remarks about Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’ and the relatives of relatives of a ruling party MP and local deputy governor.
At present, these allegations have not been independently confirmed.
A 32-year-old man suspected of committing the shooting has been arrested.
A statement released by Armenia’s Investigative Committee describes the deadly altercation as a ‘follow-up’ to an incident of road rage.
According to the Committee, on 18 June in the town of Aparan, the 32-year-old driver of a car, who had his brother as a passenger, had an altercation with the driver of another car, whom the 32-year-old accused of bad driving. Local Aparan residents also apparently become involved in the dispute.
On 19 June, the 32-year-old, his brother, and several other men met with one of the Aparan residents who were a part of the previous day's argument and beat him. At 19:00 the same day, an argument about ‘the same issue’ continued at a rubbish dump near the village of Nigavan, where the 32-year-old man ‘fired from a rifle at his disposal’, thereby killing two people and injuring five.
Both the police and the Investigative Committee have denied that the incident was sparked by a political dispute.
The rally comes on the heels of nearly two months of continuous protest by Armenia’s opposition, who seeks Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation, ostensibly for concessions he has made on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In a statement on Monday, the opposition Armenia Alliance claimed the incident had taken place ‘with the participation of ruling party members’.
Armen Ashotyan, vice-president of Armenia’s former ruling Republican Party, which is part of the opposition I Have Honour bloc, stated that the ‘bloody’ events in Aparan ‘prove that the [ruling] Civil Contract Party has become a gang’, and suggested that the party be banned once Pashinyan is no longer prime minister.