An Armenian opposition activist alleged a government campaign of intimidation on Friday as he was discharged from hospital one day after being attacked and injured in Yerevan by unknown individuals.
Gevorg Safarian was assaulted just hours after attending a demonstration staged by dozens of fellow members of the Preparliament opposition movement outside the Armenian police headquarters. They protested against a series of arson attacks on cars belonging to Preparliament activists.
“I was hit, most probably by a blunt object, in the back of my head and fell to the ground, nearly losing consciousness,” Safarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I was then hit for several more times.”
“I remember again finding myself inside the Preparliament building after that. I don’t remember whether I was taken there or went in by myself,” he said.
Safarian was taken to a Yerevan’s Grigor Lusavorich hospital moments later. Doctors there said he suffered a concussion. They stitched up his head wound before letting him return home.
“This was definitely a political action against both me and Preparliament,” charged Safarian. “And of course it is connected with the arson attacks on the cars.”
Preparliament’s leadership voiced similar allegations in a statement issued immediately after the incident. It claimed that the Armenian authorities are bullying its members in an effort to stifle its ongoing campaign for regime change.
Human rights activists also held the authorities responsible for the incidents. Avetik Ishkhanian of the Armenian Helsinki Committee said, “One theory is that this is an act of state terror, a crime ordered by the authorities and committed by their criminal elements. According to another theory, this crime was organized by some government faction without the authorities’ prior knowledge.”
Either way, said Ishkhanian, the authorities must identify and punish those responsible for the violence. “This is a litmus test for the police,” he said. “Let the police prove that they are working professionally and that there is no impunity in Armenia.”
The police questioned Safarian in the hospital but launched no formal criminal proceedings as of Friday evening. For its part, Armenia’s Investigative Committee, a separate law-enforcement body, opened criminal cases in connection with the pre-dawn arson attacks on 7 cars owned by other Preparliament members and supporters. Nobody has been arrested yet.
Safarian predicted that the cases will not be solved. “In our country the police do not have the power to go against the regime,” he said. “In fact, the police are part of the regime.”