On September 15, at around 7 pm, Hovhannes Galajyan, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Isakakan Iravunk (True Right) was beaten by unknown assailants. This was the second such attack on Galajyan. The first occurred on September 6 last year, when he was assaulted, kicked and punched in the back and head by two strangers while leaving his house. The culprits behind the first attack have not been identified. A criminal case was filed this time as well, under Article 113 of the Criminal Code, which cites the willful inflicting of moderately severe damage to someone's health.
CRU vs. CRU
Cracks first began to appear in the Constitutional Right Union (CRU) party at the end of last year. As a result of disagreements between CRU leaders Hrant Khachatryan and Hayk Babukhanyan, the party broke down and Hrant Khachatryan resigned as president. The following assembly of CRU elected Hayk Babukhanyan as party president. The memberships of some of Khachatryan's supporters (including Sedrak and Karen Vardanyan) were frozen, and they were later unable to have their positions restored in court. Hrant Khachatryan then went to court and demanded that the decisions taken during the CRU assembly be considered void. His case was sustained and Khachatryan was reinstated as CRU president. This time the memberships of Babukhanyan's supporters were frozen. After a virtual tug of war, Babukhanyan and his supporters left the CRU building. They then started a new publication, with Hovhannes Galajyan as editor-in-chief, called Iskakan Iravunk (True Right), in contrast to the CRU newspaper Iravunk (Right). Khachatryan's supporters and Babukhanyan's people continue to criticize and blame each other to this day.
"The Events of the Past Year are Part of One Chain of Logic"
"At around 10:00-10:30 am that day, someone named Manuk from the Azg newspaper called our home. He said that he wanted to meet me. I told him the location of the newspaper's office. He called on my mobile at around 5 pm and I explained the location to him in great detail. He then called again at 6:45 pm and said that he had come during the day but had been unable to find the office. I explained the location to him again and we agreed in the end to meet at 7 pm opposite the Football Federation. I then decided to go straight to the Football Federation to be there before him and also buy cigarettes. I left a few minutes before 7 pm. Between the third and fourth floors a tall young man came up in front of me. He smiled and greeted me and I wanted to return the gesture when I suddenly received a very strong blow. It was as if he had hit my head very hard and then I heard a sound like someone hitting a rock with a hammer. I leaped at him, held him tight and pulled him to the floor, all the while trying to snatch the hammer from him. I then felt that the hammer was metal, it was cold. It was a pretty brutal instrument, around 30-40 cm long with a 4-5 cm diameter. I don't know if the handle was hollow or solid," said Galajyan, and continued, "I had almost succeeded in snatching the hammer away when the second of them appeared - he was shorter, but had a similar hammer. He hit me on the head and other parts of my body a number of times. My hands slackened and I let the first man go. Then the two of them kicked me a few times and walked away quickly, almost running. Although my vision was cloudy, I managed to hold on to the walls and go up to the sixth floor, to the newspaper office. I was trying to use my mobile on the way up, but couldn't manage it, I think blood had filled the phone. I reached the office and called Hayk Babukhanyan, after which the guards from below came upstairs and called an ambulance. Babukhanyan came and called the police. I found out at the hospital that I had six injuries to my head. It took the surgeon around two hours to suture my head wounds. I lost a lot of blood, probably around one liter."
The editor-in-chief of Iskakan Iravunk blamed, as he did for the first attack, his former party colleagues - Hrant Khachatryan's team. "The events of the past year are part of one chain of logic. An attack last year and then a smear campaign, an attempt to create scandal - they were even trying to convince the public that I had beaten myself up, while the ones who attacked the editorial office on February 8 remained free. Now if anyone is not satisfied with any newspaper, they will have the precedent of February 8 before them."
Galajyan based his words on a numbers of factors. He noted in particular that Karen Vardanyan of the CRU and a member of Khachatryan's team had "confessed at one point that the most influential positions in the party were held by workers at Iravunk, and had called it a rebellion. That was proof that it was all aimed against the newspaper." According to Galajyan, it was no surprise that he and his colleague Gegham Grigoryan were then "relieved of duties without any orders, debriefing or any sort of normal procedure."
Galajyan and Grigoryan are now trying in court to regain their previous positions. "I am definitely going to return as editor of Iravunk, which would be a catastrophe for them," said Galajyan, noting that the 'catastrophe' would entail the sacking of the current staff of the newspaper.
Galajyan believes that if the authorities would order the case to be investigated properly, then it will be solved. "Unfortunately, we do not live in a country of law, but rather in one ruled by the law of the jungle. The law enforcement bodies move only when other processes are set in motion," said the opposition activist. He was quite optimistic on this front. The editor-in-chief thinks that the authorities do not want any extra tension before the upcoming presidential elections. That is why Galajyan does not consider this to be the act of a third party (read the authorities).
"I don't think a third party should be imagined here, the second party organized this," said Galajyan, recalling that, after the first attack, then Defense Minister Serzh Sargsyan also blamed the same party. However, one should note that the first attack caused an uproar because Galajyan had blamed Sargsyan himself. He told the Aravot daily last September - "Of course, it is a bit absurd that I was beaten up simply because of intra-party conflict. That news has been spread by people from Serzh Sargsyan's camp" (20.09.2006, Aravot). But now Galajyan is convinced that the men behind both attacks were his former party members. Galajyan is not giving serious thought to Hrant Khachatryan's comments that they will conduct a separate investigation into the incident. "They will conduct yet another sham," said the journalist.
He had his own interpretation for his opponent Karen Vardanyan's opinion in the newspaper 168 Jam. Vardanyan had said that this controversy was a provocation by Hayk Babukhanyan. "The first time that Galajyan was beaten up, the rebellion in CRU orchestrated by Babukhanyan occurred. Hayk Babukhanyan wanted to take up the role of victim. This second incident also occurred when Babukhanyan needed the image of a victim, because there are a number of criminal cases against him. There is a lot of evidence that he has forged documents and the prosecutor's office is now investigating the case against him," said Vardanyan.
Galajyan noted only the tryapka [washcloth, also spineless creature] case filed against Babukhanyan. "The case against Babukhanyan is hilarious. It is a common case of a tryapka - someone (Hrant Khachatryan) resigns and then retracts his resignation, returns to politics on the shoulders of judges and policemen. Babukhanyan called him a 'tryapka, spineless, undignified - a woman politician.' This empty criminal case is causing public hilarity."
The journalist considered it "villainous and imbecilic" of all those who thought that his friend of 35 years, Hayk Babukhanyan, would do anything to harm him.
Asked why he was the specific target of the attack, Hovhannes Galajyan responded, "After all, I am the founding editor of the Iravunk newspaper. My name has always been associated with it - you could say that I am a symbol of the newspaper in a way."
P.S. At the Police Investigative Unit of the Yerevan Central District an approximate portrait of one of the young assailants who attacked Hovhannes Galajyan was composed based on his description. At the time of the assault the perpetrator was wearing a cap. The police announced that an investigation of the incident had begun.