The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) demanded on Friday the immediate release of another HAK activist arrested after clashing with police officers in Yerevan.
The activist, Vardges Gaspari, was detained on Thursday while attending a non-partisan protest outside the prime minister’s office against continuing non-combat deaths of Armenian soldiers.
The several dozen protesters chanted “Shame!” when the chief of the national police, Alik Sargsian, he emerged from the government building after taking part in a cabinet session. They also blocked his way.
Sargsian’s bodyguards scuffled with the protesters to enable him to reach his limousine parked nearby. Gaspari hurled abuse at the police general in the meantime.
He was forced into a police car and driven away shortly afterwards. Some of the other protesters, among them opposition deputy Zaruhi Postanjian, tried unsuccessfully to prevent the arrest.
The Armenian police said later in the day that Gaspari is suspected of hooliganism and assault. He was not formally charged as of Friday evening. A police spokesman declined further comment on the case.
The HAK strongly condemned the arrest of its member known for his active participation in just about every anti-government demonstration staged in Yerevan in the last three years. In a statement, the opposition bloc claimed that the police actions were illegal and politically motivated.
It accused Sargsian of “getting involved in political processes and taking revenge on political and civic activists criticizing him.”
Vladimir Karapetian, a senior HAK representative, insisted that the Iranian-born Gaspari did not insult Sargsian. “What Vardges Gaspari constantly says to politicians or the authorities fits into the framework of political activities,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Karapetian also drew parallels between Gaspari’s arrest and a controversial criminal case against Tigran Arakelian, another HAK activist.
Arakelian was arrested in early August after he and several other members of the HAK’s youth wing clashed with police officers in disputed circumstances. He remains in custody pending trial on charges of assault and hooliganism.
Arakelian’s prosecution led to the collapse of the HAK’s landmark negotiations with Armenia’s governing coalition.