“The number of political prisoners in Armenia increased by 5 yesterday,” “Zhoghovurd” writes in reference to the arrests of the leaders of the Founding Parliament opposition movement and searches conducted in their offices and homes. The paper recalls its March 19 report which said that the Armenian authorities have decided to “isolate” Zhirayr Sefilian and his associates at least until April 24, the day when the Founding Parliament plans to start nonstop anti-government protests in Yerevan. “The question was how they are going to do that,” says the paper. “As time has shown, all government provocations, including with the participation of criminal elements, have been useless. So the authorities had to rely on the imagination of the experienced Aghvan Hovsepian (the head of the Investigative Committee), which has now been put into practice. After all, Hovsepian began fabricating criminal cases back in Soviet times.”
“Hraparak” also says that the arrests were widely anticipated. “In effect, the authorities are fully using their key lever: the right to prosecute people,” writes the paper. “Our authorities think that it would be much more shameful if some people were to take to the streets on April 24, spoil [Armenian genocide commemoration] ceremonies, and embarrass them in front of visiting foreign dignitaries than if they throw political opponents into jail without serious grounds.”
“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” notes that the Investigative Committee and the National Security Service (NSS) also cited “moral” considerations (i.e., the centenary of the Armenian genocide) behind their crackdown on the Founding Parliament. The paper says that the authorities have done far more immoral things.
By contrasts, “Hayots Ashkhar” justifies the arrests of Sefilian and the other “self-styled saviors” of the nation. The paper says the authorities were also right to “neutralize” Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian in February and jail over a dozen maverick activists who clashed with riot police in Yerevan in 2013.
“Zhamanak” sees some similarities between the crackdown on the Founding Parliament and mass arrests of opposition members in the wake of the March 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. The paper believes that the crackdown bodes ill Armenia’s democratization.