- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
April 23, 2004

Random or Planned?: Attack on former politician raises questions

An attack on a prominent oppositional figure on Thursday has sparked outrage by anti-government sympathizers who see the act as a premeditated order by authorities.
Manucharyan has been a behind the scenes oppositionist.

Ashot Manucharyan, who in the late 1980s was a member of the “Karabakh Committee” and later was Minister of Interior and then National Security Advisor during the first term of President Levon Ter Petrosyan was severely beaten while walking on Tumanyan Street in Yerevan in mid-afternoon.

Gayane Markosyan, a human rights activist who was with Manucharyan at the time, said three unknown men attacked Manucharyan. She described the men as having shaved heads. One of the attackers, Markosyan said, pushed her aside, while the others kicked and beat Manucharyan. The victim was taken to hospital, where he underwent surgery and is being treated for broken jaw bones.

Since a falling out with Ter Petrosyan in 1994, Manucharyan has been out of the public light, but is believed to be influential still among the current opposition.

He has been active in Intellectual Forum, a gathering of moderate oppositionists who do not support a specific party, but are opposed to the current administration. Manucharyan was reportedly on his way to a Forum meeting when the attack occurred.

An associate of Manucharyan, who was active with him during the Karabakh Movement told ArmeniaNow the attack on Manucharyan is “without doubt” connected to the present opposition movement.

“The attack,” Manucharyan’s comrade said, “represents a level of desperation (by authorities) that is frightening.”

Poet Silva Kaputikyan, who has become an opposition celebrity after, in protest of violence against the opposition, returned a State award she was given by President Robert Kocharyan, gave a response to Manucharyan’s attack.

“Beating in Armenia has become the basic means of politics and the most influential part of state terror,” Kaputikyan said. “All cases when force has been used should be viewed from this standpoint.”

Police have not released information about the attack, except to say that an investigation has been opened.

Ashot Kocharyan, spokesperson for Robert Kocharyan, said the President would not be making an official statement concerning Manucharyan, but said that he could speak for the President in saying that he “condemned” the attack.

The attack on Manucharyan came during a week in which at least 76 arrests were made on oppositional sympathizers, bringing the total number of such arrests to more than 500 arrests since regular demonstrations began three weeks ago.

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