BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Armenia Takes One Step Forward and Two Steps Back
YEREVAN—The former governor of the Syunik Province, Suren Khachatryan, who resigned last year for his alleged involvement in a murder, was reappointed to the post again, garnering the well-wishes and congratulations of Armenia’s self-proclaimed reformist prime minister, Hovik Abrahamian.
The incident that forced Khachatryan, who is known as “Liska,”—his nom d’oligarchie– to resign in June 2013 was the murder of Goris mayoral candidate Avetik Budaghyan, which took place near Khachatryan’s sprawling mansion in the region. During the shooting incident, Budaghyan’s brother, Artak, a colonel in the Armenian Army and another man, Nikolay Abrahamyan were wounded.
The governor’s close proximity to the incident, for which he was under investigation briefly, forced his resignation. Subsequently, his son, Tigran Khachatryan and his bodyguard, Zarzand Nikoghosyan, were arrested and charged with murder and possession of illegal weapons.
As is the case with most criminal proceedings in Armenia that involve oligarchs, the investigation was suspended that the two were set free and cleared of all charges. Law enforcement claimed that the suspects were acting in “self-defense” saying that Budaghyan was allegedly attacking the Khachatryan residence.
However, the Budaghyan family disputes the account, saying that before the shootout, the senior Khachatryan attacked Budaghyan in his car, over business dealings.
News of Khachatryan’s reappointment came one day after President Serzh Sarkisian, who approves and sanctions gubernatorial appointments, gave a positive speech at the United Nations General Assembly, calling out Turkey and Azerbaijan for their disruptive policies in the region and hinted at the possibility recalling the dangerous Turkey-Armenia Protocols.
However, the country’s president must not deal with domestic woes differently than its foreign ones. The outcry following the murder In June 2013, and subsequent dismissal of the case, should have sent a clear signal that Khachatryan has no business in government, much less governing the region that borders the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan.
If Sarkisian is using the international arena to call for justice in the region, he should exercise the same notion when reappointing his corrupt friends who have been implicated in a murder to such an important position.