Two dozen Armenian anti-government protesters remained in custody and risked criminal charges on Wednesday one day after clashing with riot police in Yerevan.
The Armenian police detained as many 38 people after a small crowd led by a veteran political activist, Shant Harutiunian, attempted to march to the presidential administration building and supposedly seize it with batons, Molotov cocktails and smoke bombs. The demonstration followed a sit-in which Harutiunian organized in Yerevan’s Liberty Square last week. He declared that the protest marks the beginning of a democratic “revolution” in Armenia.
Eighteen of the detainees were released from police custody after midnight, while the 20 others, including Harutiunian, were formally placed under arrest. Under Armenian law, the police have 72 hours to decide whether to charge or free them.
A police statement said that a criminal investigation into the extraordinary incident is being conducted under Criminal Code clauses dealing with resistance to law-enforcement officers and serious damage caused to public property. The statement defended the use of force against the protesters, saying that they assaulted policemen with sticks and homemade bombs after being warned that the demonstration is illegal.
Some of the protesters released overnight claimed that the violence was triggered by government “provocateurs.”
The police also said that eight of their officers were injured in Tuesday’s clashes. Four of them remained in hospital as of Wednesday evening, receiving treatment for what doctors described as injuries of “medium gravity.” Two policemen suffered concussion in the melee, according to a senior official in Yerevan’s Surb Grigor Lusavorich hospital.
One of the protesters, a 16-year-old boy, was also hospitalized after the clashes. He was discharged shortly afterwards.