Two opposition deputies complained on Friday that the Armenian authorities are still refusing to allow them to meet any of the 14 anti-government protesters that were arrested after clashing with riot police in Yerevan last week.
The outspoken lawmakers, Nikol Pashinian and Zaruhi Postanjian, were allowed to enter on Thursday Yerevan’s Nubarashen prison where the protesters are being kept pending trial on assault charges. They both said that they did not any find of these detainees in their prison cells.
Postanjian claimed that they were deliberately denied access to the men led by Shant Harutiunian, a veteran activist who pledged to topple the government before the November 5 demonstration that ended in violence. She said the authorities thus tried to create a semblance of their compliance with an Armenian law that allows members of the parliament to visit arrested or jailed individuals practically at will.
Pashinian accused the authorities of violating the law when he was barred from entering the Nubarashen premises on November 9. The incident led parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian to organize earlier this week an emergency meeting of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian with several parliamentarians, including Pashinian.
Tovmasian, whose ministry manages Armenia’s prisons, reportedly defended the Nubarashen administration’s stance. According to Postanjian, he now says that while deputies can enter prisons they are not legally allowed to meet any inmate.
“I think Mr. Tovmasian is simply obeying [Armenian police chief] Vladimir Gasparian’s wishes and allowing illegal practices,” said Postanjian.
The minister’s stance was also criticized by other opposition deputies as well as Elinar Vartanian, the chairwoman of a parliament committee on human rights affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).
Even Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, said on Friday that his opposition colleagues should be given access to the jailed protesters. “I think that even if the law does not allow that it could have been breached in this case because Zaruhi and Nikol would not have eaten those persons or given them instructions,” he explained.