The Armenian government’s post-election crackdown on the opposition showed no signs of a let-up on Tuesday, with several more supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian reportedly detained by law-enforcement authorities.
A spokesman for Ter-Petrosian’s election campaign team, Armen Khachatrian, said the latest detainees include two senior members of the People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), one of more than two dozen opposition groups aligned to the ex-president. One of them, Eduard Bakhshian, heads the HZhK chapter in Yerevan’s northern Avan suburb.
Khachatrian told RFE/RL that police also detained at least two opposition activists outside Yerevan. He said one of them headed Ter-Petrosian’s campaign office in the northwestern Amasia district.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General declined to confirm or deny the information. A spokeswoman said only that the total number of oppositionists arrested in the aftermath of the February 19 presidential ballot has risen to 109. Sona Truzian told RFE/RL that 106 of them have already been charged with attempting to “usurp power,” organizing or participating in “mass riots” and other serious crimes.
Armenia’s Police Service, for its part, said a total of about 879 opposition supporters have been detained and questioned since late February. It said 754 of them have been set free.
In a separate statement, Ter-Petrosian’s office said Tuesday that the police and the National Security Service (NSS) have also been rounding up and exerting “physical and psychological pressure” on dozens of other, less known oppositionists across the country since last week. It said they are being forced to give incriminating testimony against opposition leaders and to sign written pledges not to participate in further anti-government rallies.
The statement said such pledges run counter to Armenian law and urged Ter-Petrosian supporters to show up for interrogation only after receiving written summonses.
Among the individuals questioned by the police on Tuesday was Artak Yeghiazarian, a correspondent for the opposition newspaper “Hayk.” Yeghiazarian told RFE/RL that he spent several hours at a police station in Yerevan’s Nor Nork district giving explanations for his presence in Ter-Petrosian’s post-election rallies. He said he told police officers that he attended the unsanctioned rallies in his capacity as journalist.
The Ter-Petrosian camp also released the list of 12 detained opposition figures which it says were ill-treated by security forces. Most of them were arrested during the break-up on March 1 of the 11-day opposition sit-in in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. Among them are Mushegh Saghatelian, a former chief of Armenia’s prisons, and two senior members of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), David Arakelian and Vahagn Hayotsian.
According to Seda Safarian, a lawyer representing the three men, has visited her clients in jail and found traces of violence on their bodies. “David Arakelian’s face was badly injured and swollen, while Mushegh Saghatelian had trouble walking and even standing,” she told RFE/RL. “They were mainly beaten in the street [adjacent to Liberty Square] and on their way to police custody. Only Mushegh Saghatelian told me that he was beaten up at the Kentron police [in Yerevan] as well.”
Inessa Petrosian, another lawyer, represents three other detainees included on the list. One of those detainees, Ashot Manukian, heads the HHSh chapter in the northern Lori region. Petrosian said all three men were badly beaten during their arrest but were not tortured in jail.
“All detainees are being kept in normal conditions,” insisted Ashot Martirosian, head of the Justice Ministry department managing Armenian prisons. “We don’t have a particularly negative attitude towards any prisoner. Nor do we have an instruction to show such attitude.”