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Police Warn Opposition Over Next Rally


Armenia - Riot police deployed during an anti-government demonstration in Yerevan, 6Feb2014.

Armenia - Riot police deployed during an anti-government demonstration in Yerevan, 6Feb2014.

The Armenian police on Thursday warned the country’s leading opposition parties not to disrupt “public order” at their next anti-government rally in Yerevan scheduled for October 24.

General Hunan Poghosian, the deputy chief of the national police service, said security forces are ready to take “unplanned” actions against participants of the protest organized by the Prosperous Armenia (BHK), Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun parties. “Everyone must bear in mind that the organizers of the rally bear even more responsibility than the police,” he told journalists.

The three opposition parties will hold the demonstration two weeks after demanding that President Serzh Sarkisian agree to a “handover of power” or face sustained street protests. Their leaders have promised to present supporters with a clearer plan of anti-government actions on October 24. It is not yet clear, though, whether they are ready to stage nonstop rallies in the capital.

Vladimir Gasparian, the national police chief, warned the opposition against destabilizing the political situation in the country with “unlawful” actions as he oversaw a crowd control exercise on September 13. “There are cold showers for [politically] heated autumns,” he said. “And when a shower doesn’t help we can organize a much more heated autumn.” Leaders of the opposition troika rejected the warning, accusing the police of illegally meddling in politics.

“The police are an apolitical structure,” Poghosian said when asked to comment on his superior’s statement. “At least in the last few years we have proved that with our activities and you have witnessed that. I’ll just say that nothing special will be done.”

The BHK, the HAK and Zharangutyun rallied supporters in various Armenian regions later in September and early this month before taking their campaign to Yerevan. None of those rallies was marred by violence.

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