Armenian law-enforcement authorities on Thursday pressed charges against a young man who was briefly arrested last week for his role in a violent protest near the Russian consulate in Gyumri.
Mnatsakan Aleksanian, a 22-year-old resident of nearby Sarnaghbyur village, was detained on February 4 in connection with the January 15 clashes between riot police and angry protesters demanding that a Russian soldier accused of murdering a local Armenian family be handed over to Armenian authorities. He was set free without charge two days later, just hours before scores of people were due to rally in Gyumri to demand his release.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee formally accused Aleksanian of grave hooliganism, a charge carrying between four and seven years in prison. The suspect’s lawyer, Hayk Harutiunian, dismissed the accusation as baseless.
“The indictment gives the impression that only Mnatsakan was at the scene and that everyone else was quiet and peaceful in Gyumri on that day,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “It says nothing about why it all started in the first place.”
None of the other protesters has been prosecuted so far.
Harutiunian added that his client has refused to formally testify. He said he still hopes that the investigators will eventually drop the case.
Civic activists in Gyumri have pledged to stage more rallies if the Russian authorities refuse to place Valery Permyakov, a Russian soldier charged in the January 12 massacre, under Armenian jurisdiction. Permyakov is being kept at the Gyumri headquarters of a Russian military base.