Police in Nagorno-Karabakh on Friday moved to sack ten officers for their violent response to dozens of opposition activists from Armenia who attempted to enter the territory in late January.
An ad hoc police commission petitioned the Karabakh police chief, Kamo Aghajanian, to fire them and take disciplinary action against 15 other policemen as a result of a month-long inquiry. It said they committed “blatant” abuses when security forces confronted a motorcade of some 30 cars carrying leaders and members of the Yerevan-based group Founding Parliament.
Aghajanian did not immediately act on the recommendation.
The car procession was stopped by the Karabakh police at Armenia’s border with the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) on January 31. An Internet video of the incident shows that some of the oppositionists were beaten up despite not attempting to break through the police cordon. Many of the cars were vandalized by uniformed policemen and plainclothes men even as they sped away from the scene.
The violent crackdown sparked uproar from the Armenian media and opposition and civic groups.
The authorities in Stepanakert initially defended the use of force, saying that it prevented clashes between the Founding Parliament activists and Karabakh Armenians unhappy with the group’s decision to take its campaign for “regime change” in Armenia to Stepanakert. Still, Bako Sahakian, the NKR president, ordered a “meticulous” police inquiry into the violence.
Sahakian discussed the probe with senior police officials on February 27. He told them to finish it and publicize its results “as soon as possible.”
Earlier in February, the Founding Parliament leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, said he and his associates will again try to stage a rally in Karabakh soon. He dismissed Karabakh officials’ claims that anti-government rallies in Stepanakert would endanger Karabakh’s security given the recent upsurge in fighting with Azerbaijani forces.
The Founding Parliament holds no seats in Armenia’s parliament and is critical of the mainstream Armenian opposition. It has so far failed to attract large crowds to its rallies held in Yerevan and other parts of the country.