YEREVAN (Yerkir.am)—The owner of the Harsnakar restaurant whose bodyguards brutally beat up three Army doctors, one whom died on Friday, resigned from parliament Tuesday evening amid wide-spread public outrage and criticism of Amrenia’s oligarchic behavior that resulted in the death of an Armed Forces official.
Pressure has been building for ruling Republican Party Parliament member Ruben Hayrapetyan to resign his parliament seat, after he and his party members failed to properly condemn the impunity with which his bodyguards acted. On Friday, Dr. Vahe Ayetyan succumbed to his injuries and died, leaving behind his wife and two children.
While seven people have been arrested for the beating, the muted reaction from the Republican Party elite, including Hayrapetyan himself and President Serzh Sarkisian has been widely criticized.
“I am the first to blame myself,” said Hayrapetyan. “I should have stopped such a tragedy, but I was unable to do it. Such an incident should not have occurred in a place affiliated with me and my family. I cannot forgive myself and I don’t know how to ask for forgiveness.”
He went on claim that his was morally bound to resign his post in parliament.
“I hope one day I can be forgiven by Vahe’s family,” said Hayrapetyan.
“I would give anything to have been physically present on that fateful evening to stop the fists from coming down on those young people and stop the tragedy that claimed a life, ruined a family and left children orphaned,” said Hayrapetyan in his resignation letter.
“I would give anything to be able to turn the time back. But I cannot. Vahe is no longer with us and I have to live with that. I have to look in the eyes of his family members and I don’t know how I’m going to do that,” added Hayrapetyan.
Hayrapetyan, also known as “Nemets Rubo,” is a known oligarch who owns numerous business ventures, among them the Bjni mineral water company (which bottles Bjni and Noy), a hotel also called Harsnakar on Lake Sevan, and a bank. He is also the president of Armenia’s Football Federation.
Although Hayrapetyan maintains he had no connection with the beating, his personal bodyguard, Garik Markaryan, allegedly inflicted the fatal injuries on Avetyan.
Hayrapetyan’s resignation followed reports that he visited the Presidential Palace earlier in the evening for a discussion on the events with the president.
On June 30, several hundred people participated in a candlelight vigil held at the Harsnakar restaurant in Avan.
The demonstration was organized by a group calling itself the “Self-Determined Citizens of the Republic of Armenia.”
The demonstrators began the vigil on a sidewalk near the restaurant, holding lit candles and posters that read “I am Vahe Avetyan” and “You can’t get away with it.”
Some attempted to approach the restaurant and place candles in the parking lot, but were initially blocked by police. One of the organizers then convinced the police to let a stream of people slowly approach the lot.
The demonstration was peaceful, with people speaking to each other quietly and lighting candles, while others wept and prayed. Anahit Bakhshyan of the Heritage Party was visibly distraught when talking to Civilnet.am.
“I am really tired of this lack of accountability,” she said. “I am disgusted by this situation but…at this moment, I can’t find the words. I can’t find the way out, but I know this can’t happen. I know we have to do something, and if there’s someone who knows what to do I’ll stand by him. But right now, I feel empty.”
Armen Rustamian representing the Armenian Revolutionary Federation also joined the demonstrators.
“The upper echelons of the leadership must teach a lesson and certainly reiterate what is demanded by law—that an obvious murder took place in public sight,” Rustamian said. “If that is not explained, brought to light and condemned…they will have to do something so that [the issue] doesn’t become complicated.”
The demonstration ended just after 10 p.m. and similar protests continued Sunday in front of the Presidential Palace and the prosecutor general’s office. A memorial service was held for Avetyan on Monday afternoon.
That same evening, only a few hours after demonstrators left the scene, Vartan Samvelyan, a lieutenant colonel in the Armenian military, entered Harsnakar with the intention of blowing up the restaurant with explosives he was carrying, as reported by Tert.am. He was arrested shortly thereafter by the police and is under custody.