By Ruben Meloyan and Anush Martirosian
Police detained several young men at the scene of an ongoing opposition sit-in in Yerevan on Tuesday as they sought to prevent its participants from placing new anti-government posters and other agitation material there. All of them were released later in the day.
The police used force on Monday to remove stands with pictures of detained oppositionists and opposition posters from a section of the city’s upscale Northern Avenue where dozens of supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian have been camped since early July. Law-enforcement officials cited complaints lodged by the owners of street buildings and shops.
Eyewitnesses told RFE/RL that riot police detained at least four opposition supporters on the spot after discovering pro-Ter-Petrosian graffiti painted on the floor. “Three of our young men have just been dragged away, and another ran away. I don’t know if they caught him,” one of the protesters, Yelizaveta Tarverdian, said, crying. “How can they do this?”
“We asked the police to explain why they are taking away the guys but there was no reply,” she said.
Colonel Aghasi Kirakosian, deputy chief of Yerevan’s police department, explained the detentions as he spoke with protesters shortly afterwards. “We must clarify who wrote this,” he said, pointing to the “Levon president!” inscription written on the pedestrian boulevard’s tiled floor.
“Why should this section of Northern Avenue not be clean?” said Kirakosian. “So clean this up and we’ll clarify things and free the lads.”
In another Northern Avenue incident, a 17-year-old opposition supporter was reported to have been stabbed and wounded in the arm by a government loyalist late Monday. David Kiramijian described the attacker as an elderly man who shouted abuse at the protesters. “I just told him that there are women and children here and he should stop swearing,” Kiramijian told RFE/RL. “He then came up to me, swearing.
“I was about to respond when he took out a knife and moved to hit me. I raised my arm to shield my body, and so the knife pierced my arm.”
Kiramijian was immediately taken to hospital to have his wound stitched up. The Armenian police said in a statement the next day that his presumed attacker, identified as Volodya Manukian, was detained for questioning and then set free pending investigation.
Northern Avenue, which leads to Yerevan’s Liberty Square, has been the scene of daily gatherings of Ter-Petrosian supporters ever since the end of emergency rule imposed by the authorities following the deadly March 1 unrest in the capital. The authorities tried unsuccessfully to stop what the opposition has dubbed “political strolls” with random detentions of their participations in late March and early April.
Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK), an alliance of 16 opposition parties, has condemned the latest police actions there. “Can there be a more miserable thing than a dictatorship fighting against posters?” Levon Zurabian, a senior HAK member, said on Tuesday. “The authorities presented no legal grounds for such actions.”