Opposition lawmaker Zaruhi Postanjian has asked Chief of Armenian Police Vladimir Gasparian to ensure her and her family’s security in the wake of death threats issued by a senior government member affiliated with the ruling party.
In an interview with Yerkir.am on Thursday Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Khachik Asrian lashed out at Postanjian over the question about President Serzh Sarkisian’s ‘gambling habit’ that she posed to the Armenian head of state at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly session in Strasbourg last week, calling the member of the opposition Heritage party a “vole-mouse from a Turkish garden”. The member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) known for his nationalist stance further called for “burning Postanjian at the stake”.
Earlier, the youth wing of the HHK had reportedly threatened to jeer Postanjian and pelt her with eggs and tomatoes on her return to Yerevan from Strasbourg last weekend. They were apparently discouraged from staging such an action after President Serzh Sarkisian made clear through his spokesman that he believed his young loyalists should not do such a thing.
Instead, Postanjian received a hero’s welcome from her fellow party members and supporters at the Zvartnots airport last Saturday. In her remarks to the media then Postanjian said that she had been prepared even for ‘egg-pelting’ as she believed she had done the right thing by challenging Sarkisian on a matter that “80 percent of Armenians are concerned about”.
After the statement by the senior government official, however, the oppositionist said that she was worried that Asrian or one of his loyalists could actually act upon the threat and cause harm to her or her family.
“I do not rule out that using the statement of this figure some third party may try to attack me or members of my family,” the mother of four wrote in her request to the police.
Asrian, meanwhile, made a clarifying statement on Friday, saying that his call for burning Postanjian at the stake was just a figure of speech.
“I did not mean burning Zaruhi Postanjian’s physical body, I meant it for her actions, for this phenomenon,” Asrian suggested.
Leading human rights activists in Armenia, however, did not appear to be satisfied with this explanation. One of them, former ombudswoman Larisa Alaverdian, stressed that no one, especially a high-ranking state official, has the right to make such threats. She said that under Armenian laws such statements can easily be qualified as a crime.