By Ruzanna Stepanian
Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian on Thursday urged about two dozen people currently on hunger strike in support of opposition claims to end their protest action and spare themselves for “further struggle”.
In a statement provided to RFE/RL by the former president’s office, Ter-Petrosian in particular says he realizes “the importance of this extreme means of political struggle” and “deeply appreciates the feat of those who resorted to hunger strikes”.
“But I still urge you to stop your hunger strikes beginning from this moment. Your health, unbending will and determination will be required as a more effective contribution to the popular struggle at later stages,” Ter-Petrosian said, concluding that April 9, the day of when Serzh Sarkisian assumed the president’s office, is a beginning of the struggle rather than its end.
According to Arsen Babayan, a spokesman for the Department of Penitentiaries at the Ministry of Justice, 23 people in custody are currently on hunger strike. Among them are MP Hakob Hakobian, former Deputy Speaker of Parliament Karapet Rubinian, former Head of the Customs Department Yerjanik Abgarian, Chairman of the Board of the former ruling Armenian all-National Movement party Ararat Zurabian, former Deputy Minister of National Security Gurgen Yeghiazarian, and others. According to the spokesman, all are in stable health condition.
Meanwhile, the opposition claimed more police brutality against their supporters following Serzh Sarkisian’s Wednesday inauguration.
A former member of the Karabakh committee told of how he was assaulted and beaten in Yerevan’s central square Wednesday night as he attended a festive event as an onlooker.
Hours after Sarkisian was sworn in as Armenia’s new president a hot air balloon show timed to his inauguration was staged in Yerevan’s Republic Square.
Samson Ghazarian told RFE/RL that several people clad in civilian dress, including some police workers, repeatedly urged him to leave the square. He claims that when he refused to do so, one man in civilian clothes hit him.
“I know one of them. But those who roughed me up and hit me wore civilian clothes. It seemed they were afraid of something. They were pushing those whom they considered to be Ter-Petrosian supporters out of the square. I had gone there to see what was going on,” Ghazarian said.
Ghazarian also claimed police hit a number of women who were passing through the square at that time chanting opposition slogans.