Chief of the Armenian police Vladimir Gasparian has denied any political reasons behind a series of recent arrests targeting members or people affiliated with a governing party.
On Wednesday, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), which is a member of Armenia’s three-party ruling coalition, acknowledged signs of pressure in the form of criminal arrests of a number of its supporters on drug-related charges. Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK lawmaker, spoke of a pattern in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am), but conspicuously stopped short of “jumping to conclusions”.
The arrests sparked renewed speculation about increasingly competitive relations between the BHK and its senior ruling coalition partner, the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), headed by President Serzh Sarkisian, ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections.
The talk about growing tensions between the two coalition partners intensified after Levon Ter-Petrosian, the leader of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), expressed his readiness last week to cooperate with the BHK if it leaves the ruling coalition and openly challenges President Sarkisian. Tsarukian, who has been vacationing abroad since earlier last week, has so far been noncommittal over the proposal. Nor did he publicly react to the arrests of BHK supporters.
Police chief Gasparian denied having been challenged by Tsarukian to provide explanations.
“I am not accountable to anyone except the public,” he said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am).
“Police are not a truncheon… You know, I’ve got no extra sensory abilities to know people’s party affiliations [during arrests]. It isn’t important to me,” explained Gasparian, stressing that up to a dozen similar arrests take place in Armenia on a daily basis as part of regularly conducted special police operations.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Wednesday, the HHK’s deputy head Galust Sahakian also rejected talk that the recent arrests of BHK-affiliated people might have had anything to do with politics. He said that “crime knows no party affiliations” and no one – regardless of what party they belong to – is immune from prosecution.