Civil activists who were briefly detained by the police during last night’s protest in Yerevan have described the actions of the law-enforcement agency as ‘absurd’.
Nine activists wearing Guy Fawkes masks were taken to a police station for participating in a so-called Anonymous demonstration in support of jailed radical opposition leader Shant Harutiunian and his supporters.
Dvin Isanian, one of the activists who was kept at the police station for two hours before being released, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that they were only participating in a flash mob that did not disturb public order in any way.
“I asked them to present a lawful demand after which I would myself walk [to the police station]. But they began to drag me into a vehicle… When I refused to get into the car, they put handcuffs and forced me to get into the car,” the activist said.
Other detained activists also said that police officers used force against them without explaining reasons for their detentions. They claimed they were detained essentially for wearing masks.
During the demonstration Colonel Valeri Osipian, who was in charge of maintaining public order, was heard giving orders to police officers to detain masked people. But the police’s press service later said that the activists were detained for “violating the rules of the use of public places” and that they faced fines of between 20,000 and 60,000 drams (about $50-$150) for the violations.
None of the activists, however, agreed to sign the protocols on their “administrative violations”. They said they intended to challenge the police actions in courts.
Artur Sakunts, a prominent human rights campaigner, said the police had sought to thwart the demonstration by all means, including detentions based on unlawful demands to activists not to wear masks.
And civil activist Argishti Kivirian, who also took part in Wednesday’s demonstration, stressed that laws in Armenia do not prohibit people from wearing masks during public events. “If it were so, the police would also have to detain all participants of Halloween parties, people wearing Santa suits and others who wear masks or costumes in public,” he said.