Opposition leaders on Thursday accused the chief of the Armenian police of violating the country’s laws and constitution after he admitted using undercover agents to keep abreast of actions planned by government foes.
The police general, Vladimir Gasparian, made the confession on Wednesday when he insisted that Armenia’s three leading opposition parties will not seek to topple President Serzh Sarkisian with sustained street protests. “Apart from visible police service there is also undercover police service. I know who thinks what,” he told the press.
Top representatives of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun party seized upon the remark to accuse the authorities of illegal surveillance. HAK’s Levon Zurabian said that Gasparian would have been immediately fired in an established democracy.
“In this country laws are not enforced,” Zurabian claimed. “In this country elementary democratic values are not respected. That is why a dictatorial police chief can get away with making such statements. They would have sounded outrageous had we not realized in what kind of a country we live.”
Zaruhi Postanian, an outspoken Zharangutyun figure, also made the point that Armenian law does not empower the police to gather intelligence on legitimate political activities of parties and individual citizens. “The authorities are illegally monitoring their political opponents,” she said. “This is further proof that in Armenia people can be persecuted for their political views.”
The authorities faced similar allegations in 2012 after a secret recording and publication by unknown individuals of a confidential conversation between Zurabian and former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian at a Yerevan café. Both Zurabian and Oskanian, who is affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia Party, lodged formal complaints with the Special Investigative Service. The law-enforcement body launched an investigation under a Criminal Code article dealing with illegal surveillance of people but never prosecuted anyone.