By Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia’s state human rights ombudsman, Armen Harutiunian, on Monday criticized police actions during the break-up of an unsanctioned opposition demonstration in Yerevan late last week.
Riot police used force on Friday to disperse more than 200 opposition supporters outside a court where seven prominent opposition members stood trial on controversial coup charges. The crowd tried to march to the Office of the Prosecutor-General in protest against what they see as a politically motivated case.
The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) condemned the police actions as illegal and complained to Harutiunian, presenting him with video of the clashes.
Harutiunian told RFE/RL that he has studied the footage and believes the police committed “violations” of the law. He said he will write to the chief of the national police, Alik Sargsian, to demand an explanation for what he considers the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters.
Two journalists working for an opposition newspaper were injured during the incident. One of them, photographer Gagik Shamshian, required treatment in hospital afterward. Shamshian said fell over and hit his head against an iron pole as the police pushed back the crowd. “I thank God for not getting a serious injury,” he said.
Shamshian, who has been repeatedly manhandled by the police in the past, was summoned the police department of Yerevan’s southern Shengavit district on Monday to give a written account of the incident.