An Armenian opposition activist was released from custody on Wednesday more than one month after being controversially arrested in connection with an anti-government protest broken up by riot police.
Vahagn Ghumashian was charged with inciting “mass disturbances” during the July 29 demonstration held in Yerevan’s Sari Tagh neighborhood in support of opposition gunmen that had seized a nearby police station.
Riot police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd after it refused to march back to the city center. Senior police officers said the crowd gathered too close to the police facility besieged by security forces.
More than 60 people were seriously injured and hospitalized in the ensuing crackdown condemned by the Armenian opposition and human rights groups. About two dozen journalists covering the protest, including three RFE/RL correspondents, were beaten up by plainclothes men.
Ghumashian strongly denies the charges, saying that he was not at Sari Tagh on July 29 or any other day. “I have never set foot in Sari Tagh,” the activist insisted after being released from Yerevan’s Nubarashen prison.
Ghumashian also said law-enforcement authorities have not presented any evidence to the contrary.
Ghumashian was set free after signing a written pledge not to leave the city until the end of a criminal investigation into the Sari Tagh violence conducted by the Special Investigative Service (SIS).
Ghukasian’s lawyer, Haykuhi Harutiunian, demanded that the SIS drop the charges altogether.
Three other, more prominent opposition figures arrested after the Sari Tagh crackdown were freed last month. They all are senior members of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party.