Fatal Accident in Question: Supporters say popular actor should not be detained

Fatal Accident in Question: Supporters say popular actor should not be detained

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A group of intellectuals have addressed an open letter to Prosecutor General of Armenia Gevorg Kostanyan and Kotayk regional prosecutor Vazgen Rshtuni on behalf of popular actor Vardan Petrosyan, currently detained on charges resulting from two deaths in an automobile accident. The letter seeks to have Petrosyan released from detention on the personal surety of the letter’s co-signers.

On October 20, a BMW driven by Petrosyan collided with a Niva carrying six passengers on the Yeghvard-Yerevan highway. Two teenagers – Eduard and Edgar Hakobyan, age 16 – were killed and three others injured. Petrosyan himself was hospitalized and underwent surgery at Erebuni Medical Center. On November 9, Petrosyan was arrested on charges of negligent manslaughter, a charge that carries up to 10 years imprisonment. His attorney is seeking to have him released while trial is pending.

Before his arrest Petrosyan told media that it was a tragic accident and offered his condolences to the family of the victims. The actor expressed his distrust in the investigators’ actions, assuring that he had no intention of hiding and would serve his term should the court rule so.

“If I deserve to serve 4 to 10 ten years or 14 to 20 years in prison, I will. But let no one dare to think that I might make the slightest attempt to evade responsibility,” he said.

The family of the victims is demanding a fair investigation into the accident to identify the causes of their tragedy.

Hovhannes Tumanyan Puppet Theatre director Ruben Babayan extended his condolences to the family, and says Petrosyan’s supporters are not asking that charges be dropped against the actor, but that he be released on his own recognizance while awaiting trial.

“What do we expect from justice – fairness or cruelty? The way they are treating the actor today is far from justice,” says Babayan.

Professor of Arts Henrik Hovhannisyan believes it was a tragic accident the consequences of which have affected both sides, and supporters of Petrosyan are appealing on moral-legal grounds.

“In our country people commit deliberate murders and get away with it,” he says.

Petrosyan is a popular actor, whose performances are most often based in political satire and freedom of speech. During last winter’s presidential election campaign Petrosyan spoke at rallies in support of opposition candidate Raffi Hovannisian.

His attorney has turned to a number of international organizations for help in preparing a 3D re-inactment of the accident.

“Investigative bodies have harmed this case. I know by 99 percent how the accident happened and can prove it,” says defense attorney Nikolay Baghdasaryan. “Vardan and the aggrieved party know it as well. It is most regrettable that two young boys died. For now I can only assure you that it has been established that Vardan Petrosyan was not speeding, neither had he used alcohol prior to driving, nor was he napping at the wheel. Nonetheless, the investigative body has illegally arrested him. They first detained him then started collecting evidence, but when they saw the facts were actually proving something else, they refused to make those available to us,” says the defense attorney.

Heritage party representative Stepan Safaryan told ArmeniaNow that the actions of the authorities against Petrosyan that look like revenge lead one to assume that it might well be connected with the actor’s support for the opposition movement last spring.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Arman Saghatelyan offered clarification regarding the case in a Monday interview to Panorama.am, saying that the RA President is not authorized to intervene in legal processes. Nonetheless, he said, “considering the general concerns in Armenia over the application of imprisonment under guard, the president of the Republic of Armenia believes there is a need to once again reconsider the legislative and practical issues of this restraining measure.”