By Karine Kalantarian
A prominent Armenian journalist and political analyst confirmed on Wednesday that he has been questioned by the police for allegedly assaulting an activist of a small pro-government party who urged him to vote for Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
In a complaint lodged with the police, the unidentified young woman claimed that David Petrosian of the Noyan Tapan news agency kicked her as she and another member of the United National Liberal Party (MIAK) handed him pro-Sarkisian leaflets on Saturday. Petrosian strongly denied the allegation.
The activists’ visit to the veteran commentator’s Yerevan apartment was part of a controversial house-to-house campaign launched by the MIAK late last month with the aim of boosting Sarkisian’s electoral chances. The party, founded and led by an aide to Sarkisian, formed groups of mostly young people who have been visiting Yerevan residents and agitating for the Armenian premier’s victory in the February 19 presidential election. In particular, residents are handed leaflets stating ten reasons why the MIAK believes he should be Armenia’s next president.
The effort has already been condemned as illegal by some opposition politicians. They argue that campaigning for the presidential election officially starts on January 21 and that Armenian law bars candidates from explicitly urging citizens to vote for them. The Central Election Commission has not yet formally registered any of the presidential candidates.
Speaking to RFE/RL, Petrosian said he may have behaved “quite aggressively” but did not use force against the MIAK visitors. “I told them, in a quite categorical way, to go away because they disturbed me and because the election campaign officially starts on January 21,” he said. “They said they have the right [agitate for Sarkisian.]”
Petrosian added that he was summoned to the police department of central Yerevan for questioning for Tuesday. “I refused to give any explanation because that is my right,” he said. “The police themselves should prove the claims. I consider myself innocent and insist that I didn’t do anything illegal.”
But the MIAK’s nominal head, Samvel Farmanian, stood by the allegations. Farmanian also brushed aside reports in the opposition press which say MIAK campaigners have also sought police action against other Yerevan residents hostile to the government. “I find it meaningless to react to false media reports that citizens angry at our members or supporters are being summoned to police stations,” said the former leader of the youth wing of the opposition Orinats Yerkir Party.