By Emil Danielyan and Hovannes Shoghikian
Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) acknowledged on Thursday that the two men detained in Yerevan’s Liberty Square the previous night for allegedly urging opposition supporters to resort to violence were its employees.
Organizers of the non-stop rallies held there by supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian for the past nine days said the men agitated for a violent overthrow of the government and secretly recorded protesters’ reaction to their calls. Their recording devices were laid out on a table in a nearby café where the two NSS agents were forcibly taken by opposition activists before being handed over to senior police officers.
In a written statement, the NSS condemned the detention and exposure of its two agents and warned organizers of the “illegal rally” against making further attempts to hamper “professional activities” of these and other security officers. The statement said NSS agents are in fact helping to ensure the security of the protesters.
Also, the Armenian successor to the Soviet KGB again claimed to have arrested six “extremist-minded” participants of Ter-Petrosian rallies and confiscated large quantities of weapons, ammunition and explosives from them in recent days. But it did not identify any of those individuals.
Ter-Petrosian and his top allies insisted on Thursday that the exposed NSS agents were tasked with provoking the peaceful demonstrators into taking violent actions and thereby substantiating government allegations that the ex-president is bent on seizing power by force. Nikol Pashinian, a top Ter-Petrosian backer, also poured scorn on the former KGB and its director, Gorik Hakobian, in particular. “If our guys can detect their agents so easily, how are they fighting against Azerbaijani and Turkish special services?” he told thousands of protesters in Liberty Square.
Also on Wednesday night, police detained two young opposition supporters near the square in downtown Yerevan. They were set free two hours later after the intervention of two parliament deputies from the opposition Zharangutyun party. Stepan Safarian and Zaruhi Postanjian arrived at the police headquarters of Yerevan’s central administrative district with several journalists. All of them were forcibly removed from the building before the police agreed to release the detainees.
The Armenian authorities’ crackdown on the radical opposition has until now focused on prominent figures close to Ter-Petrosian. At least six of them have already been remanded in pre-trial on a string of criminal charges, including illegal arms possession and assault.
The police also began on Thursday impounding cars parked around Liberty Square. Vartan Boyajian, an opposition supporter, told RFE/RL that traffic police stopped him two blocks away from the square and said they are taking away his car for “examination. “One officer said I won’t have my car back until most of the cars get out of the area,” he said.
A police spokesman defended these actions, saying that they are legal.
(Photolur photo: Gorik Hakobian.)