By Karine Kalantarian
The leaders of the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) alliance were issued with orders to appear on Thursday before state prosecutors for questioning in connection with their campaign for regime change, but refused to obey them.
“We consider that decision by the prosecutor’s office illegal,” said Artarutyun’s Albert Bazeyan. “We have no desire to give testimony to the law-enforcement bodies.”
But one prominent member of the alliance was interrogated by prosecutors for five hours. Victor Dallakian said he was initially invited to a police department in the morning to give more testimony on his beating by unknown individuals two weeks ago.
“I was invited to the police as a victim only to be forcibly taken to the Prosecutor-General’s office as a witness [in the ongoing criminal investigation into Artarutyun’s activities],” Dallakian told RFE/RL. “I consider that a provocation.”
According to Dallakian, Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian visited him shortly before the end of the questioning together with the head of the OSCE office in Yerevan, Ambassador Vladimir Pryakhin. He said he was set free after promising to show up for another interrogation on Friday.
Pryakhin met Hovsepian to discuss recent days’ arrest and imprisonment of dozens of opposition activist around the country. In a statement earlier in the day, the OSCE official expressed “serious concern” at the arrest and prosecution of another senior Artarutyun member, Suren Sureniants, on charges of advocating “a violent overthrow of constitutional order” and publicly insulting government officials.
The prosecutor’s office has threatened to bring similar charges against other opposition leaders if they continue their “unconstitutional” campaign against President Robert Kocharian. But its summonses were ignored by the oppositionists.
“I am supposed to go there at four o’clock today,” said Aram Sarkisian. “I promise the prosecutors that we will definitely meet after these rallies, regardless of whether or not there will be regime change. I just wish them a bit of patience.”
“I told them that I am busy conducting my political activities as a parliament deputy,” Bazeyan argued for his part.
Unlike them, Artarutyun’s top leader, Stepan Demirchian, received a less imperative “invitation” to visit the lower-level Prosecutor’s Office of Yerevan. “I do not accept the invitation,” he said.
No summonses were sent to the leaders of the National Unity Party (AMK), Artarutyun’s opposition ally. “I express my displeasure at being neglected,” AMK leader Artashes Geghamian mocked the prosecutors. “It would be a great present to the opposition if they attempt to arrest opposition representatives, especially Mr. Demirchian and myself.”
In a joint statement, the two opposition groups claimed that the ruling regime will fail to retain power despite the “repressions.”