Law-enforcement authorities on Thursday pledged to investigate a violent clash between a deputy speaker of Armenia’s parliament and an outspoken anti-government activist which raised eyebrows in the country.
The influential vice-speaker, Alen Simonian, and Artur Danielian, the leader of the nationalist Adekvad movement highly critical of the Armenian government, came to blows after crossing paths in downtown Yerevan on Wednesday.
They blamed each other for the brawl, with Danielian posting a picture of his bloody nose on social media. Simonian also appeared to have suffered an injury. Both men received medical assistance at different hospitals.
Simonian said later on Wednesday that he head-butted Danielian after the latter swore badly at him. The vice-speaker defended his actions, saying that they amounted to self-defense.
“I am prepared for any decision that will be taken by law-enforcement bodies,” he said in a video message streamed live on Facebook.
Danielian and his supporters portrayed this statement as proof that Simonian was the first to resort to violence. The activist’s lawyer, Tigran Atanesian, said law-enforcement authorities have sufficient grounds to prosecute the close political associate of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Prosecutors said on Wednesday that the incident will be investigated by Armenia’s Special Investigate Service, a law-enforcement body which normally deals with criminal offenses allegedly committed by state officials.
Commenting to the incident, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Civil Contract party, Lilit Makunts, said that any form of violence is unacceptable to Armenia’s political leadership.
But Makunts also said: “This incident should not be viewed as a separate case. It is a consequence of public threats, verbal abuse of sexual character which have moved from the online domain to the offline domain.”
The brawl occurred one day after Simonian traded insults with Edmon Marukian, the leader of the mainstream opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK), on the parliament floor. He also launched a sexist attack on a female LHK parliamentarian after being criticized by her during a parliament debate.
Simonian apologized to the lawmaker, Ani Samsonian, later on Tuesday.
Danielian is a former member of Civil Contract who left Pashinian’s party before the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.” Danielian and his supporters set up Adekvad following the Pashinian-led revolution which they strongly opposed. Heavily relying on social media, the hardline group regularly accuses the current authorities of undermining traditional Armenian values, posing a threat to national security and plotting unilateral concessions to Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Pashinian and his allies dismiss these accusations. They say that Adekvad is linked to Armenia’s former leadership toppled in 2018.