An opposition parliamentarian on Monday accused law-enforcement authorities of illegally not allowing him to meet any of the 14 anti-government protesters that were arrested after clashing with riot police in Yerevan last week.
The outspoken lawmaker, Nikol Pashinian, said that the administration of the Nubarashen prison, where the protesters are kept pending trial, barred him from visiting them at the weekend without any explanation. Speaking in the National Assembly, he called this a gross violation of an Armenian law that gives parliament deputies unfettered access to individuals accused or convicted of various crimes.
Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian promised to investigate the matter before holding a separate meeting with Pashinian and several other deputies later in the day. According to Pashinian, they agreed that Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian must provide an official explanation.
The Justice Ministry, which runs Armenian prisons, did not react to Pashinian’s claims on Monday.
Pashinian already met the 14 detainees, including their leader Shant Harutiunian, at a police station in Yerevan before they were charged with assaulting police officers and transferred to Nubarashen late last week. He cited Harutiunian as alleging that the chief of the Armenian police, Vladimir Gasparian, personally beat him up in police custody. Gasparian strongly denied the allegation.
Pashinian suggested on Monday that this could be the reason why the authorities are reluctant to let him again talk to Harutiunian and the other arrested men who tried to march to the presidential palace in Yerevan in what they called an attempt to topple the government. He told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the police might be trying to “cover up a bigger abuse.”
The 14 detainees were charged under an article of the Criminal Code that deals with “dangerous violence” against state officials and carries between five and ten years’ imprisonment.