Several young activists of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) were assaulted by a larger group of men while campaigning for the opposition party led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian in Yerevan late on Monday.
One of the activists, Aleksandr Hakhverdian, suffered a serious injury to his head and was hospitalized.
Hakhverdian, 27, said on Tuesday that he and his wife were approached by several aggressive youths in the city’s western Ajapnyak district as they handed out booklets urging local residents to vote for the HAK in the upcoming municipal elections.
“They asked us, ‘What are you doing here? We are from the [ruling] Republican Party, this is our neighborhood, all the voters are ours, you have no right to campaign here,’” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They hit me and my head started bleeding. I had blurred vision for a few seconds.”
According to Hakhverdian, the thugs were then joined by more than a dozen older men who also started beating the other HAK activists. One of the activists, Mariam Mkrtchian, said that during the incident she noticed a police patrol car parked nearby and pleaded with officers sitting in it to help end the violence. “They laughed and drove away,” claimed the 21-year-old.
A spokesman for the Armenian police, Armen Malkhasian, told RFE/RL's Armenian service that the incident is now being investigated by the local police department. Malkhasian said “all participants” have been identified and questioned by the police. He did not elaborate.
Armenia - Riot police scuffle with young activists of the opposition Armenian National Congress demonstrating outside the Yerevan Mayor's Office, 19Apr2013.
The HAK leadership, meanwhile, strongly condemned the attack, saying that it was the work of “rank-and-file Republican bandits” acting on government orders. In a written statement, the opposition party claimed that the Armenian authorities have instructed “neighborhood thugs” to obstruct the HAK campaign “by all means.”
The HAK said last week that its activists were bullied by government loyalists while campaigning in two other Yerevan districts.
The Republican Party’s campaign headquarters also condemned the Ajapnyak incident as “inadmissible.” A short statement issued by it did not say whether the attackers were indeed linked to the party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian.
The incident occurred just hours after the police urged all election contenders to cooperate with law-enforcement authorities in trying to prevent electoral fraud and other violations. The police said they have set up a special “coordinating group” tasked with rapidly reacting to reports of such violations.