The Armenian police promised on Thursday to investigate allegations by two lawyers that they were illegally detained and mistreated at a police station in Yerevan last week.
The lawyers, Stepan Voskanian and Vahe Hovsepian, say officers at the police headquarters of Yerevan’s central Kentron district violated their rights as they tried to defend seven opposition activists arrested on August 9. They claim to have been jostled, temporarily locked up in a room and essentially denied access to clients.
The leadership of Armenia’s Chamber of Advocates, the national bar association, backed its members’ claims in a statement issued on August 12. It also lodged a separate complaint with the Office of the Prosecutor-General.
Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian (no relation) on Wednesday asked the chief of the national police service, Alik Sargsian, to order an official investigation and inform him about its results. According to his spokeswoman, Sona Truzian, Hovsepian also sent Sargsian a photocopy of an opposition newspaper article detailing the lawyers’ claims.
A police spokesman told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Sargsian instructed his subordinates to conduct an “internal investigation” into the matter.
The police chief insisted last week that the Kentron police did not restrict the lawyers’ access to the detained oppositionists. He said at a news conference that they were actually able to enter the police station and meet their clients earlier than is allowed by the law.
The attorneys, meanwhile, on Thursday appealed to state prosecutors to launch criminal proceedings against Kentron police officers. Vahe Hovsepian called his and his colleague’s alleged mistreatment a “dangerous precedent.”
“If this particular case is not solved, such incidents may happen more often, regardless of whose interests lawyers will represent,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.