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Critic of Yerevan authorities ‘attacked’ day before new mayor was elected

11 October 2023
A still from a video posted by Artur Chakhoyan following the incident.

A vocal critic of the local authorities in Yerevan was reportedly attacked by three people a day before the City Council voted to appoint the ruling party’s candidate for mayor. 

On Monday evening, activist Artur Chakhoyan went live on his Facebook account, showing a young man lying on the ground. Chakhoyan said he was attacked and beaten by the man and two others on his way home in the hallway of his apartment building. 

He also showed a knife he said he had taken from the attacker he caught. According to him, the two others managed to escape. In the broadcast, he called on viewers to call the police. 

Chakhoyan is a vocal critic of the authorities in Yerevan, including newly elected mayor Tigran Avinyan. 

[Read more: Ruling party secures Yerevan mayorship despite underperforming in elections]

During the election campaign, Chakhoyan published a widely shared video claiming that the government was using administrative resources to help their candidate. 

During the broadcast on Facebook on Monday, Chakhoyan asks the other man if ‘Avinyan’ sent him. 

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The man can be heard repeatedly refuting this, also denying that he had attacked Chakhoyan or had a knife. 

In a following Facebook Live, Chokhoyan showed that the Police had arrived, saying that ‘eventually it will be clear whose order it was’.

Challenged by journalists on Tuesday, newly elected mayor Tigran Avinyan commented on the incident. ‘I definitely condemn violence. Since I am not familiar with the details of the case, I cannot give any assessment’, he said. ‘To be honest, I didn't even understand what happened.’

‘Everything is done as under the previous authorities’

On Tuesday, the Investigative Committee said they were investigating both Chakhoyan’s claims and those of his alleged attacker.

A spokesperson said the man, who they did not name, had learned that Chakhoyan was sending ‘videos and some information to Azerbaijanis’ and attempted to meet with him. During the meeting, they said a conflict arose during which he received injuries.

Chakhoyan responded to the accusations, calling it ‘absurd’. He added that he was prepared to hand over his telephone and computer to the National Security Services for investigation. Chakhoyan also claimed to have learned from social media that the person had twice been convicted of stabbing. 

He connected the incident with his public activity of publicising ‘low-quality construction works’ by the authorities.

‘It's nonsense. It’s clear that they wouldn’t say that we came to make an assassination attempt on Chakhoyan in connection with kindergarten, school, or other construction tenders’, he said.

Nina Karapetyants from human rights group the Helsinki Association said she had little hope for a fair investigation, or that the masterminds would be punished.

‘Everything is done according to the same logic as under the previous authorities’, Karapetyants told OC Media. ‘All the tools are used’. 

‘They understand that in certain situations, they will start using the toolkit that has been tested for decades, which will enable them to protect their own people from everything, and apply the law strictly for those who are not their own’.

Karapetyants said this was not the first time such tactics had been used against government critics. She recalled previous incidents in which a group calling themselves ‘Guardians of the Revolution’ retaliated against individuals who criticised the government after the 2018 revolution, and especially Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, forcing them to apologise publicly. 

‘The actions of that group were not rebuked [by the government] for a long time, until there was a great public uproar’ Karapetyants said.

She also cited criminal cases being initiated against opposition members and people who disagreed with the authorities in politically tense situations.