By Shakeh Avoyan
Three members of the opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party arrested on Tuesday were reportedly released but another one remained on the run on Wednesday as the Armenian police continued what they describe as a crackdown on illegal arms possession.
A party leader, Albert Bazeyan, told RFE/RL that the three residents of Yerevan were set free early in the morning only to have their apartments again searched by law-enforcement officials. He said similar searches were already conducted during their brief detention, which is seen by Hanrapetutyun as part of government efforts to forestall renewed opposition protests against President Robert Kocharian’s rule.
Hanrapetutyun said more than two dozen of its activists around the country have been summoned to police stations for questioning in recent days and warned against assisting in the ongoing opposition efforts to mobilize public support for a campaign of anti-government demonstrations expected this spring. Similar claims have been made by another influential opposition group, the People’s Party (HZhK) of Stepan Demirchian. The HZhK and Hanrapetutyun are leading members of Armenia’s largest opposition alliance called Artarutyun (Justice).
The police refrain from commenting on the opposition allegations, saying only that they are looking for illegally kept weapon and ammunition and have already found some quantities of them. The only firearm that they claim to have confiscated so far is an old assault rifle used by the German army in the Second World War. A statement issued by the national Police Service late on Tuesday also listed about three hundreds bullets, 19 unspecified “detonators” and five “home-made knives.”
All of this was allegedly found in premises owned by four individuals. Two of them are kept in custody and will likely be charged with illegal arms possession. Hanrapetutyun leaders say those men have no links to their party.
Another suspect, Romik Mkhitarian, heads the Hanrapetutyun branch in Yerevan’s southern Shengavit district. Mkhitarian refused to allow police officers to search his home and is now said to be in hiding. The police statement said that “measures” are being taken to track down and question him.