By Harry Tamrazian in Prague
A human rights activist in the northern Armenian city of Vanadzor was arrested and sentenced to ten days in prison over the weekend for holding an unsanctioned rally in protest against a reported arson attack on his office.
Artur Sakunts heads the local branch of the Helsinki Civic Assembly, a human rights organization. Its Vanadzor office was reportedly burned down on the night from March 13 to 14. The group believes that the fire was caused by a petrol bomb thrown through its window.
According to one of its local activists, Artur Khachatrian, Sakunts called the demonstration to protest the attack. “He was called to police and warned not to hold the protest,” Khachatrian told RFE/RL from Vanadzor. “But people did gather the next day.”
Khachatrian said Sakunts was arrested shortly after the protest and got the jail sentence for “disrupting public order” in a closed trial two hours later.
Officials in the Vanadzor mayor’s office denied any knowledge of the arrest, while the deputy chief of the local police refused to comment. “Police do not comment on the phone,” he said.
Sakunts monitored the recent presidential election as a local observer and claimed to have witnessed serious irregularities.