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Opposition Activists Freed After Clashes With Police


Armenia -- Armen Martirosian, deputy chairman of the opposition Zharangutyun party, is detained by riot police station during an opposition rally in central Yerevan, 9Apr2013.

Armenia -- Armen Martirosian, deputy chairman of the opposition Zharangutyun party, is detained by riot police station during an opposition rally in central Yerevan, 9Apr2013.

A close associate of opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian and a dozen other detained activists were set free on Tuesday night after spending several hours in custody following clashes with riot police in Yerevan.

The Armenian police said on Wednesday that most of them will be fined 50,000 drams ($120) each for resisting law-enforcement officers during street demonstrations against President Serzh Sarkisian’s inauguration for a second term.

Virtually all of the activists were detained during Hovannisian’s first attempt to stage a march to the presidential administration building in Yerevan with several hundred supporters. Riot police blocked their way on the city’s Marshal Bagramian Avenue early in the afternoon.

Hovannisian attempted to march to the building with a larger number of protesters later in the day. Armen Martirosian, a deputy chairman of his Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, was roughed up and detained in resulting clashes with security forces. Martirosian had a bloodied face as he was dragged away by police officers. He too was freed several hours later.

A police statement said that Martirosian “malevolently” disobeyed police orders and will be fined for that. He was summoned to the police headquarters of Yerevan’s Arabkir district on Wednesday to give further explanations.

Martirosian, who tops Zharangutyun’s list of candidates for the upcoming mayoral elections in Yerevan, rejected the police accusations. He also demanded the launch of criminal proceedings against the police officers that used force against him.

“Our brave policemen heroically fought against peaceful demonstrators,” Martirosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They shoved us and we defended ourselves. At one point someone with a red beret hit me in the face from behind, after which I had to hit back. Then several others twisted by torso and I felt a kick in my nose.”

“Their actions were illegal and unconstitutional,” said the prominent oppositionist. “I gave them no grounds for such actions. I didn’t hit or insult anyone first.”
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