Stabbing Incident Sparks Widespread Condemnation

CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION SHARPLY CRITICIZES ACT AS PROVOCATION AGAINST THE STATE

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Parliamentary factions in Armenia’s National Assembly (NA)–along with the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Armenia–the OSCE–and Ambassador Ordway sharply condemned the stabbing of NA member Hayk Babukhanian on February 4 in the town of Artashat. Babukhanian–who has been heading the presidential campaign of Aram Karapetian–was preparing for a rally in the town’s square when he was attacked.

After speaking with the interior minister and general prosecutor of Armenia as well as the head of the region in which the incident occurred–CEC chairman Artak Sahradian said "This incident casts a shadow over the election campaign and is a provocation against state." He then referred to the CEC’s statement demanding that law-enforcement bodies take all measures to find and punish those responsible–and laid the blame of the attack on local law-enforcement authorities "We believe that the law-enforcement bodies in Ararat failed to ensure public order."

In a joint statement–Armenian parliamentary factions and groups demanded that law-enforcement bodies expose and punish those responsible–and prevent such illegal acts from recurring–especially during election campaigns of various candidates.

They stressed the importance of holding democratic–free–fair and transparent elections and held law-enforcement bodies responsible for guaranteeing peaceful campaigns–void of any acts that may question the validity of the electoral process.

"We urge all to follow civilized rules for pre-elections and a responsible approach–keeping in mind the future of the nation."

US Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway likewise urged authorities to conduct a "a prompt and effective investigation."Measures should be taken to prevent any similar event from reoccurring–and any guilty party should be brought to justice," he told reporters.

The observation mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (ODIHR/OSCE) strongly denounced the violence. The head of the mission Peter Eicher stated that the mission will study–in full–all circumstances connected with the incident "There is no place for violence or threats of any kind in a democratic election process," said Eicher.

According to the police report on the event–Babukhanian began his speech at 3:50 PM–prior to Karapetian’s arrival; when those gathered began to affront him–insults were exchanged. Babukhanian then fired shots into the air. When those gathered began to intervene–Babukhanian shot an additional three shots during the ensuing squabble and was stabbed.

A criminal investigation has been initiated–with local police attempting to identify those responsible.

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