By Karine KalantarianSenior law-enforcement officials investigating Armenia’s deadly post-election unrest acknowledged on Tuesday that they instructed regional prosecutors to round up participants of the opposition rallies in Yerevan, wiretap their phone conversations and collect personal data about them and their family members.
The admission followed the revelation of a written directive which Andranik Mirzoyan, head of the investigative arm of Office of the Prosecutor-General, sent to the chief prosecutor of the southern Vayots Dzor four days after the March 1 clashes between opposition protesters and riot troops which left at least ten people dead. The letter was made public by opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian at a news conference.
In emerged that Mirzoyan ordered the regional prosecutor to identify and question all Vayots Dzor residents who took part in the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition’s Yerevan rallies demanding a re-run of the February 19 presidential election. The prosecutor was specifically told to find out with whom the opposition supporters communicated from February 20 through March 2, whether they urged their neighbors to join the rallies and “how they are described by the neighbors.” He also had to collect written descriptions of the opposition supporters’ closest relatives and other personal data, including “what property they own.”
The letter also ordered local law-enforcement officials to seek court permissions for obtaining the transcripts of phone conversations of not only the heads of Ter-Petrosian’s election campaign offices in Vayots Dzor but also ordinary supporters of Armenia’s first president. What is more, they had to track down taxi and bus drivers who transported demonstrators to Yerevan and to find out “who paid for the transportation and where and what they said about the rallies.”
Speaking to RFE/RL, Mirzoyan confirmed the authenticity of the publicized letter. He said his Special Investigative Service (SIS) sent out similar directives to other regional prosecutors as well as the heads of police and National Security Service divisions.
Mirzoyan left it to Vahagn Harutiunian, a senior SIS official leading the ongoing criminal investigation into the post-election violence, to comment on the ordered measures in detail. “The document did not pursue any political goals,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL.
The law-enforcement official stuck to the official line that the March 1 clashes were instigated by Ter-Petrosian as part of his alleged plot to seize power by force. He claimed that participants of Ter-Petrosian’s non-stop sit-in in Yerevan’s Liberty Square, many of them living outside the capital, were paid to spend nights there. “[Mirzoyan’s] order was aimed at identifying those individuals who organized the recruitment [of protesters] and paid for their participation in the rallies here as well as those who received that money,” he said.
None of more than 100 opposition members and supporters arrested since the troubled presidential ballot is known to have been formally charged with illegally financing Ter-Petrosian’s campaign for regime change.
According to Harutiunian, the investigators suspect that that campaign was also sponsored by unspecified foreign governments. He said that is the reason why the Vayots Dzor prosecutor was instructed to ask opposition supporters “what was said at the rallies about the assistance from foreign states” and “whether rally participants spoke about ending Russia’s presence in Armenia.”
Ter-Petrosian, meanwhile, portrayed the publicized document as further proof that the government crackdown on the opposition has been accompanied by grave human rights abuses. “On the one hand, this is a terrific document which shows the essence of the regime,” he said. “On the other hand, this is a monstrous document which proves that we live in a dictatorial country.”
Ter-Petrosian said Mirzoyan’s letter also demonstrated that the authorities have no evidence to substantiate their coup accusations.
“That statement is inappropriate and baseless,” countered the SIS’s Harutiunian. “Our actions had nothing to do with repressions.”