Yet another young activist of an Armenian opposition grouping seeking to topple President Serzh Sarkisian claimed on Friday to have been beaten up in Yerevan because of his active participation in anti-government protests.
The 16-year-old Hovannes Harutiunian said he was attacked by two men in the city’s northern Kanaker neighborhood late on Tuesday.
“They approached me and said hello and I asked how I can help them,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They said ‘you’ll help us if you shut up and stay away from rallies’ and things like that.”
“I replied that it’s none of their business. They said I’m getting too offensive and started hitting me,” he said.
The underage activist was questioned by the Armenian police earlier in the day. He said police officers urged him not to link the incident with his political activities.
“I told them that I suspect the authorities and especially police [of orchestrating the attack] because we often have conflicts with police … They wanted me to blame innocent people,” he said.
The incident occurred one week after a similar assault on another, female member of the New Armenia Public Salvation Front, Syuzanna Gevorgian. She too said that she was attacked by two men.
Gevorgian, 23, suffered a concussion as a result. Nobody has been charged or arrested in connection with her beating yet.
Varuzhan Avetisian, a New Armenia leader also acting as Harutiunian’s lawyer, said that the latest attack will also not be solved by law-enforcement authorities. “It’s evident that there are gangs that are composed of police officers and criminal elements and operate on the regime’s orders,” he charged.
The violence followed New Armenia’s failure to attract many people to a campaign of anti-government demonstrations which it launched ahead of the December 6 constitutional referendum. The opposition alliance pledged to stage more such protests this year.
Several dozen New Armenia activists clashed with riot police on New Year’s day as they tried place a Christmas tree in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. Five of them were detained in the scuffle. All but one of them were set free hours later.
The fifth activist, Gevorg Safarian, was charged with assaulting a police officer and placed under pre-trial arrest. The charges, rejected by New Armenia as baseless and politically motivated, carry up to five years in prison.
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded Safarian’s immediate release last week, saying that he is prosecuted for his political views. Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian also received this week written pledges by three Armenian opposition parliamentarian guaranteeing that Safarian will not flee the country or commit unlawful acts if set free.
Safarian, meanwhile, went on a hunger strike in Yerevan’s Nubarashen prison on Thursday, demanding that he be kept in solitary confinement because of what he called threats received from other inmates.