Police in Yerevan questioned on Monday three members of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) over their involvement in scuffles with police forces blocking opposition access to a recently renovated square.
A police spokesman told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the HAK’s foreign policy spokesman, Vladimir Karapetian, and two young activists were summoned to the police department of the city’s central Kentron district as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
All three men refused to provide any formal explanations, saying that it is the police who broke the law during the incidents near Liberty Square in late May and early this month.
The square had served as the main venue for political gatherings in Armenia until it was closed in mid-2008 due to the construction of a large underground parking garage. Small groups of HAK attempted to gather there for several consecutive days immediately after it was reopened to public access late last month.
Riot police used force to prevent them from entering the square, detaining two dozen HAK supporters in the process. One of them is currently under arrest, pending trial on charges of “hooliganism.”
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Karapetian said police officials told him to explain his “illegal calls for rallies” during the most serious confrontation that occurred on May 31. “I wasn’t making any calls,” he said, adding that he will not give any testimony until law-enforcement authorities make a “legal evaluation” of what he considers illegal police actions.
The two other oppositionists, Vahagn Gevorgian and Sergey Gasparian, said they were accused of insulting police officers at the scene. They both denied the police allegations.
Gevorgian, 18, was already tried and sentenced to one year in prison last year for allegedly assaulting a police officer during an April 2009 opposition gathering in the city center. He avoided imprisonment thanks to a general amnesty declared by the Armenian authorities in June.
In a related development, the HAK-connected Committee to Protect Political Prisoners said on Monday that it will go ahead with plans to stage a brief sit-in in Liberty Square on June 18 in support of opposition members remaining in jail. The Yerevan municipality refused to sanction the protest last week, saying that the square has already been booked for daily festivals for children that started June 10.
Vartan Harutiunian, a member of the committee, said it will defy the “illegal and arbitrary” ban. But he made clear that the protesters will not challenge the police. “If they surround Liberty Square with police forces and try to provoke a clash, we will avoid a clash,” he told RFE/RL.