By Hovannes ShoghikianThe Armenian opposition on Tuesday used strong terms to denounce the force that police used the previous night to disperse a group of opposition protesters in a central Yerevan area.
Talking to RFE/RL, Anahit Grigorian said a group of women had kept informed the city authorities as well as the offices of the Ombudsman and the Red Cross that they would launch an open-ended hunger strike demanding the release of whom they say have been kept in custody on political grounds in the aftermath of the post-election clashes.
Another participant of the protest, Ofelia Markarian says that when they initiated their action in Northern Avenue, a posh pedestrian-only boulevard in downtown Yerevan, a group of police workers led by officer Arayik Petrosian came and tore down their banner first. After returning half an hour later, she says, they demanded through loudspeakers that the protesters leave the area.
“After the people refused to obey the order, about 150 ‘red berets’ assaulted them and began to kick women,” the woman claims.
According to her, she and another five women were driven on a police vehicle a few kilometers away from the place and released.
Talking to RFE/RL, police officer Arayik Petrosian denied that police stretched their authority or used any excessive force to disperse the protest.
Former Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Karapetian, who currently coordinates foreign ties in the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC), was also briefly detained by police late on Monday.
He told RFE/RL that a police officer had approached him and began to shout at him when he was talking to a reporter.
“When I tried to call him to order and request a normal attitude towards a citizen, he began to push me to where a group of other police officers, including the central police station’s chief and his deputy, were standing and they, too, began to speak rudely to me,” Karapetian said. “The chief of the police station then ordered my detention and I spent about half an hour at the station without hearing any explanations.”
The ANC led by first President Levon Ter-Petrosian issued a statement in connection with the incidents in which it accused the authorities of “forcing police to take illegal actions.”
“Even the slightest display of human rights, any banner or action of protest drives the regime leaders into schizophrenia,” the ANC said. “This is unavoidable for any regime hated by its own people.”
In an unrelated statement, the ANC announced that it moves its planned rally to Monday.
Earlier, Yerevan’s municipality said that while it could not authorize the opposition rally on September 12, it was ready to do so for September 15.
“We have arrived at the conclusion that the most important is to use all opportunities for an authorized rally,” Levon Zurabian, a top representative of the opposition movement, said.