Two prominent Armenian civic activists were beaten up by unknown assailants and hospitalized on Thursday night, the latest in a spate of violent attacks on individuals critical of the government.
Suren Saghatelian and Haykak Arshamian said they were assaulted in the courtyard of the latter’s apartment building in downtown Yerevan moments after arriving there by car. They described the several attackers as well-built men.
“They gave no explanations. We asked who they are but they kept punching us,” Saghatelian told Civilnet.am from an ambulance that took him and Arshamian to hospital.
“It lasted for one or two minutes,” he said. “They had a car and they probably followed us.”
Saghatelian’s face and shirt were stained with blood, while Arshamian had a bleeding nose.
Both men have a long history of civic activism and participation in anti-government protests despite not being affiliated with any political party. They have also criticized the government on online social networks.
Saghatelian suggested that the attack resulted from their occasional presence at an ongoing sit-in outside the Yerevan municipality which is held by several dozen younger activists. The protesters are demanding the sacking of two municipal officials in charge of public transport.
At least six of those protesters have been beaten up and injured by unknown thugs in late-night attacks in the past two weeks. Nobody has been arrested in connection with that violence.
Some of Saghatelian’s and Arshamian’s friends suggested that that they might have been attacked because of their participation in Wednesday’s demonstration in Yerevan against President Serzh Sarkisian’s decision to make Armenia part of a Russian-led customs union.
The attack prompted a strong condemnation from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). In a statement, the HAK pointed the finger at the Armenian authorities, saying that they continue to use “terrorist methods” against individuals challenging them.