An Armenian opposition activist was assaulted and injured in Yerevan on Thursday shortly after a series of arson attacks on cars belonging to six other members of a vocal anti-government movement.
The movement called Preparliament said that the activist, Gevorg Safarian, was hit by a blunt object and knocked unconscious by an unknown person in the city center before being rushed to hospital. It described the attack as a politically motivated attempt on Safarian’s life ordered by the Armenian authorities.
The incident occurred after unknown assailants set fire early on Thursday and Wednesday to seven cars owned by other anti-government activists. Six of them are affiliated with Preparliament.
The vehicles were seriously damaged by what appeared to be petrol bombs placed on their wheels. None of them exploded as a result.
Vartan Hakobian, one of the Preparliament members, said his car would have been completely destroyed had the arson not been noticed by a stranger. “The driver of a minibus shouted and extinguished the fire with water,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “By the time I rushed out of my home the fire was put out.”
All of the damaged cars had stickers displaying Preparliament’s emblem and latest slogan: “Centenary without regime!” The motto refers to Preparliament’s pledge to topple the government on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey that will be marked on April 24, 2015.
“The organizer is the ruling regime which is intertwined with criminal elements,” charged Varuzhan Avetisian, the owner of another car set on fire. He said he was alerted by his neighbors.
Dozens of Preparliament members voiced similar allegations as they rallied outside the Armenian police headquarters in the capital on Thursday to protest against the arson attacks. The police dismissed the allegations.
“I don’t want to respond to these ludicrous claims,” said Ashot Aharonian, a police spokesman. Aharonian said that the national police chief, Vladimir Gasparian, is personally monitoring a preliminary police inquiry into the incidents. “I can assure you that we will have results soon,” he added.
Aharonian spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) just hours before the violent attack on Safarian. “This incident proves that what happened in the previous nights … is a preplanned assault which is politically motivated and directed against the ‘Centenary without regime!’ movement,” Preparliament said in a statement issued later in the day.
Preparliament, which is led by prominent public figures, has been campaigning, including through anti-government rallies, for regime change for the past few years. The group has not attracted large crowds so far and is not represented in the Armenian parliament.