YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—An opposition member of Armenia’s parliament was arrested on Friday after brawling with a pro-government colleague in disputed circumstances.
Eyewitnesses said that Mher Sahakyan of the main opposition Hayastan alliance punched Vladimir Vartanyan, the chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs, during a session of the panel held behind the closed doors. They said the violence followed a shouting match between Vartanian and Sahakian and other opposition lawmakers.
Vartanyan, who represents the ruling Civil Contract party, suffered an injury to his left eyebrow and was treated in hospital following the incident.
Meanwhile, other senior pro-government lawmakers called the police. Parliament speaker Alen Simonyan could be seen giving instructions to police officers and security guards in the parliament lobby before they dragged away Sahakyan to a police station in Yerevan.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee said later in the day that Sahakyan was placed under arrest on suspicion of “hooliganism.” The law-enforcement agency did not clarify whether it will bring relevant charges against him.
Armenian law gives it three days to decide whether to indict the 35-year-old opposition member and ask the National Assembly to lift his immunity from prosecution.
“We know very well what influence Civil Contract has on the law-enforcement system and don’t exclude that they will also raise the issue of his arrest and prosecution,” Sahakyan’s lawyer, Ruben Melikyan, told reporters.
Melikian insisted that his client acted in self-defense, a claim echoed by Artsvik Minasyan, another opposition parliamentarian who also attended the committee meeting. Minasyan said that during the meeting Vartanyan shouted at opposition members of the committee before standing up and walking menacingly towards Sahakyan.
In a statement, Hayastan’s parliamentary group likewise blamed the incident on Vartanyan’s “provocative and unbalanced behavior.”
Vartanyan said, however, that the assault was unprovoked. He claimed that Sahakyan and other opposition deputies ignored his “legitimate demands” to stick to the meeting’s agenda.
Sahakyan’s swift arrest sharply contrasted with law-enforcement authorities’ response to violent incidents involving lawmakers affiliated with the ruling party.
One of those pro-government lawmakers, Vahagn Aleksanyan, approached and kicked Hayastan’s Vahe Hakobyan as the latter gave a speech on the parliament floor in August 2021.
Hakobyan and five other opposition deputies were hit by a larger number of Civil Contract lawmakers in an ensuing melee that was not swiftly stopped by scores of security personnel present in the chamber. The authorities did not try to prosecute anyone in connection with that incident witnessed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.