A young Armenian opposition activist was unexpectedly set free on Friday after spending a month in pre-trial detention on controversial charges which he and his backers consider politically motivated.
Davit Kiramijian was among at least 15 people detained on May 31 in Yerevan in clashes between riot police and several dozen supporters of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). The police used force to keep the oppositionists from entering the city’s newly renovated Liberty Square, the main venue for political gatherings held in Armenia since the late 1980s.
All detainees except Kiramijian were freed in the following days. The 19-year-old university student was charged with “hooliganism” and remanded in two-month custody by a Yerevan court.
The same court ordered his immediate release on Friday, citing the completion of a criminal investigation into the incident. It said Kiramijian and another young activist detained on May 31, Sargis Gevorgian, will nonetheless stand trial. It is scheduled to start on July 14.
Gevorgian was charged with assaulting a police officer before being released from police custody on June 3. The accusations leveled against the two men carry heavy fines and up to five years’ imprisonment.
Gevorgian spent three days in police custody along with his sister Ani, a journalist with the pro-opposition daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” also detained during the Liberty Square violence. The HAK condemned the police actions as illegal.
Kiramijian insisted on his innocence after walking free from Yerevan’s Nubarashen prison and heading straight to the HAK headquarters. He was greeted there with “Davit!” and “Victory!” chants.
Kiramijian said he did not expect to be set free before the trial. “They took me to the prison chief, who said, ‘I’m letting you go, so take care,’” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.