“He traded pot for a car”: Abkhaz villagers beat new local head, accuse him of drug trafficking
Residents of the village of Labra, Ochamchira district, beat the newly appointed head of the village administration, believing that he had been involved in drug trafficking in the past because he grew marijuana for profit.
The incident had a political bent to it, as among the detainees was a respected former leader of the village.
Harut Melkonyan was appointed the head of the administration of the village of Labra by the head of the Ochamchira region. However, local residents perceived this news as a personal insult.
The next day, several people drove up to Melkonyan’s house and asked him to come outside to talk. The conversation did not work out. The head of the village was beaten, and in response, he fired shots into the air from a machine gun.
In the recent past, the Melkonyan family’s main business has been growing marijuana for profit, say residents of Labra, where mostly ethnic Armenians live.
Police detained ten residents of Labra, who were allegedly involved in beating Harut Melkonyan.
Among the detainees is the former head of the village and Abkhaz hero Smbat Kerselyan, although there is evidence that he was in Sukhum when the fight broke out. After the presidential election in Abkhazia in March 2020, Kerselyan voluntarily left his post, reportedly “for political reasons.”
Harut Melkonyan took his place.
Because Kerselyan was arrested, the incident immediately became a political issue. The Aruaa Party, an opposition group composed of veterans of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict (1992-1993), issued a special statement on the subject.
After that, Smbat Kerselyan and four other detainees were released.
The trial ultimately ended with the conflicting parties coming to an agreement.
A relative of the controversial new head of the village, Vachegan Avetyan, publicly recalled that Melkonyan had recently exchanged hemp for a car. Melkonyan did not deny this, although it was precisely this line of questioning that led to the fight.
Harut Melkonyan appealed to the police with a request to disregard this statement because of the fact that he had been beaten.
The remaining detainees are expected to be released in the near future.