The Armenian police have launched criminal proceedings against one of more than two dozen civic activists who were briefly detained at the weekend while trying to stop what they see as illegal construction in Yerevan.
The prominent activist, Argishti Kivirian, suffered injuries after he and other demonstrators blocked a major street in protest against the unfolding construction of a new apartment building in the city’s Arabkir district. Riot police used force to unblock the street.
Kivirian claims to have been physically and verbally abused in a police van that drove him to the Arabkir police headquarters. He was quick to lodge a formal complaint with the Yerevan police. However, the latter appear to have ignored his allegations, opening instead a criminal case under a legal clause dealing with assaults on law-enforcement officers.
The case is based on a police officer’s allegation that he was assaulted by Kivirian inside the vehicle. The activist will risk up to five years in prison if formally charged.
Sona Truzian, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Prosecutor-General, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the case was referred to the Special Investigative Service (SIS) late on Monday. She said that Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian also instructed the SIS to investigate Kivirian’s claims as well as the legality of broader police against protesters.
Kivirian’s lawyer, Lusine Sahakian, on Tuesday denounced as “political persecution” the criminal proceedings launched by the police. She complained that the police have still not assigned forensic experts to examine her client’s injuries.
Kivirian, who runs the Armenia Today online news service, was severely beaten up outside his home in 2009. It was one of the most serious instances of violence ever committed against Armenian journalists.
The 40-year-old activist and journalist remained defiant on Tuesday, joining several dozen activists who marched to the head offices of the national police and prosecutors to condemn the police actions. Valeri Osipian, a deputy chief of the Yerevan police in charge of public order, dismissed the protesters’ claims that his officers used excessive force and illegally detained people. He said their response to the obstruction of the controversial construction was on the contrary “too soft.”