By Hrach Melkumian
An Armenian opposition activist who underwent urgent surgery after a reportedly brutal questioning by the police last month could go on trial soon on charges of assaulting one of his interrogators.
A criminal investigation relating to Grisha Virabian, a leader of the opposition Artarutyun alliance’s chapter in the southern town of Artashat, is being conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office in Yerevan’s Erebuni district. He will be brought face to face on Friday with the Artashat police officers who detained him shortly after the troubled April 12-13 opposition demonstration in the capital.
Virabian, a father of three, was hospitalized with severe injuries after several hours of interrogation at a local police station. One of his testicles were amputated as a result. The oppositionist says he was beaten up in custody and has lodged complaints with the country’s prime minister, prosecutor-general and police chief, asking them to investigate the apparent torture.
However, the Erebuni prosecutors have refused to open a criminal case against the Artashat police officers. They instead seem prepared to press charges against the victim.
“I am convinced that they will put me on trial,” Virabian told RFE/RL on Thursday. “If they acquit me, they will have to punish the guilty. But they will never punish those policemen because the whole system would crumble as a result of such a precedent.”
The police say that Virabian hit one of the interrogators with a mobile phone recharging device and must be held accountable for that. It is still not clear why they arrested the man in the first place. Virabian said he was initially accused of “disrupting public order” at the opposition rally in Yerevan. He said the authorities are now “fabricating” a more serious justification for the arrest: illegal arms possession.
Virabian is one of about two dozen opposition activists facing criminal prosecution in connection with their participation in the unsanctioned street protests against President Robert Kocharian. Five of them have already been sentenced to between 9 and 18 months in prison. The convictions have been condemned as politically motivated by the opposition and local human rights groups.