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Yerevan Police Drop Case Against Opposition Youths


Armenia -- Tigran Arakelian is greeted by fellow opposition activists after his release from pre-trial detention.

Armenia -- Tigran Arakelian is greeted by fellow opposition activists after his release from pre-trial detention.

Police in Yerevan said on Monday that they have failed to collect sufficient incriminating evidence to put a young opposition activist on trial despite keeping him prison for more than three months on highly controversial charges.


Tigran Arakelian was one of several young members of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) who clashed with plainclothes police last July as they publicized an HAK rally held in Yerevan the next day. He and two other youths were injured in the incident and required hospitalization. They said they were punched, kicked and pistol-whipped for informing city residents about the rally.

The police insisted, however, that law-enforcement officers themselves came under attack when they tried to stop a brawl involving 60 young people. Arakelian was arrested and charged with assaulting a “representative of the state authority,” a charge punishable by up to ten years in prison. The diminutive activist was released from pre-trial detention in October, ostensibly for health reasons, amid a mounting uproar from the HAK and local human rights groups.

Hrach Sargsian, a senior police officer leading the criminal investigation into the incident, told RFE/RL that the criminal case against Arakelian and two other young oppositionists, who were never put under arrest, has been closed for lack of evidence. He said the investigators have arrived at the conclusion that the suspects did not know for certain that they are clashing with law-enforcement officers because the latter did not wear uniforms.

Armenia -- Jailed opposition activist Tigran Arakelian is being taken to a Yerevan court, 08Jul2009
The conclusion sharply contrasts with statements made by other, more high-ranking police officials. Alik Sargsian, the chief of Armenia’s national police service, insisted in September that Arakelian’s guilt is already a proven fact, berating media for claiming the opposite. “It was the third time that Tigran Arakelian raised a hand against a policeman,” he said.

Ashot Karapetian, the chief of the police department of Yerevan’s central administrative district, assured RFE/RL at the time that investigators have photographs of the opposition youths kicking an overpowered policeman in the head. Karapetian said on Monday that Armenian courts would not view the pictures as a piece of evidence because they were taken by “non-legitimate means.” He did not elaborate.

Arakelian’s lawyer, meanwhile, told RFE/RL that she is not satisfied with the mere closure of the case and believes that her client should have been formally declared innocent. Vartuhi Elbakian said she will lodge a corresponding appeal to a prosecutor overseeing the inquiry and, if necessary, to local courts.

Armen Khachatrian, an HAK official dealing with arrested opposition activists, also downplayed the police move. He said the opposition alliance plans to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to declare Arakelian’s arrest and prosecution illegal.
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