A veteran political activist who led anti-government protesters clashing with riot police in Yerevan earlier this month has been forcibly transferred from a prison to a psychiatric hospital to undergo mental health tests.
An Armenian court ordered such evaluation the on Tuesday at the request of police officers investigating the November 5 violence. It gave doctors two months to assess the mental health of Shant Harutiunian.
Harutiunian vowed to storm and seize key government buildings in the capital as he led several dozen men armed with armed with sticks, homemade stun grenades and Molotov cocktails in a demonstration that was dispersed by the police. Fourteen protesters, including Harutiunian, were arrested on charges that carry between five and ten years’ imprisonment.
The police investigators decided to subject Harutiunian to psychiatric examination on the grounds that the activist known for his hardline nationalist views was already released from jail in 2009 for mental health reasons. He was among more than 100 opposition activists arrested following the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan.
Harutiunian’s wife, Ruzanna Badalian, insisted on Thursday that he is not suffering from any mental disorders. She claimed that the Armenian authorities are trying to discredit her husband and his calls for the overthrow of a government denounced by him as corrupt, incompetent and undemocratic.
“How can a healthy man be in favor of undergoing psychiatric examinations, especially given that there was such a precedent before? He was and is sane,” Badalian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
An aide to Karen Andreasian, Armenia’s state human rights ombudsman, visited Harutiunian on Wednesday, several hours before he was transferred to the psychiatric hospital. The official, Yeranuhi Tumanian, said the activist feared for his safety in the mental clinic.