The leadership of Armenia’s national bar association has accused police in Yerevan of illegally detaining and manhandling two of its members defending opposition activists arrested last week.
In a weekend statement, the governing council of the Chamber of Advocates backed the lawyers’ claims that they were temporarily locked up and effectively denied access to clients at the police headquarters of Yerevan’s central Kentron district.
The council also lodged a separate complaint with the Office of the Prosecutor-General. The law-enforcement agency has not yet responded to it.
The lawyers, Stepan Voskanian and Vahe Stepanian, were allowed into the building shortly after seven young members of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) were arrested in disputed circumstances late on August 9. They claim that police officers jostled them and confiscated their mobile phones before forcing them into an empty room.
“We were locked up in a room,” Voskanian insisted on Monday. “We tried to go out and ask for a glass of water but were told that we are not allowed to give or take anything. They said they can’t even let us leave the building.”
Hovsepian said he and Voskanian were practically unable to talk to the detainees on that night.
The chief of the Armenian police, Lieutenant-General Alik Sargsian categorically denied these allegations at a news conference last week. “Nobody was deprived of liberty,” he said. “The lawyers moved around freely.”
Sargsian said that the lawyers were allowed enter the Kentron police and meet the oppositionists earlier than is allowed by law. He described that a gesture of goodwill on the part of the police.