By Ruzanna Stepanian
Police in the southeastern Armenian town of Kapan on Monday reportedly used force to shut down the sole local campaign office of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
The office, located on the ground floor of an apartment block, was leased by the Ter-Petrosian campaign in late December. According to Roman Navasardian, the local campaign chief, its owner unexpectedly decided to end the lease agreement despite being paid two-month rent up front.
“The owner was forced to ask us to vacate the property because he said he doesn’t want to have any connection with politics,” Navasardian told RFE/RL from Kapan shortly before the eviction. He said police ordered him and other campaign volunteers to vacate the office despite the owner’s willingness to let them stay there for two more days.
“They are forcing us out,” Navasardian said shortly afterwards.
As he spoke by phone, sounds of commotion and angry men shouting at each other could be heard on the line. “I will arrest and put you on trial for disobedience,” yelled one man. “Go ahead,” responded Navasardian.
“The police have sealed the office,” the oppositionist said moments later. “All of our property is in there. So we are unable to operate right now.”
Police in Kapan could not be immediately reached for comment. Contacted by RFE/RL, Surik Khachatrian, the controversial governor of the Syunik region, of which Kapan is the capital, said he is not in the town and promised to comment on the eviction on Tuesday.
Kapan Mayor Armen Karapetian likewise claimed to be unaware of details of the incident but said he is ready to help Ter-Petrosian’s local loyalists find a new office. “They can appeal to me for help,” he told RFE/RL. “There is a lot of office space in Kapan. If necessary, I can help them find an office.”
Both Khachatrian and Karapetian are affiliated with the governing Republican Party of Armenia led by Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
(Photolur photo: Ter-Petrosian pictured during a Sunday rally in Talin, central Armenia.)