By Shakeh Avoyan
The Armenian opposition said on Tuesday that the authorities are continuing to arrest participants of their peaceful protests against the official results of last month’s presidential election.
Opposition leaders told RFE/RL that at least nine people were forcibly taken into police custody following their most recent anti-government demonstration on Monday. The protesters, most of them women, staged an unsanctioned march to the Constitutional Court in Yerevan to demand the annulment of the March 5 presidential run-off and voice their support for Stepan Demirchian, the controversially defeated opposition candidate.
“According to witness accounts, the real number of detainees is much bigger,” said a spokeswoman for Demirchian’s People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK). “We are now trying to clarify their names.”
A senior member of another pro-Demirchian party, Hanrapetutyun, claimed that the protesters were held in the dozens. “We still don’t have full information about the detainees’ whereabouts,” Artak Zeynalian said, adding that the police are keeping their relatives in the dark.
The Armenian police and Justice Ministry again refused to confirm or deny the reports. The ministry spokesman, Ara Saghatelian, said only that nine opposition supporters were detained between March 25 and April 1 for their participation in Demirchian rallies. He said three of them were sentenced to between 3 and 15 days in prison for “disrupting public order.”
A total of more than a hundred Demirchian supporters have been jailed by the authorities since the February 19 first round of the presidential election in closed trials strongly condemned by Armenian and international human rights groups. The crackdown has been conducted under Armenia’s controversial Code of Administrative Offences. The authorities have so far ignored international calls to stop enforcing the Soviet-era legislation which does not guarantee detainees access to lawyers.