Leading Armenian opposition parties on Tuesday strongly condemned the violent dispersal of an overnight anti-government demonstration in Yerevan and demanded the immediate release of scores of its participants detained by police.
Lawmakers representing one of those parties, Armenian National Congress (HAK), also boycotted a parliament session in protest against the crackdown on civic activists campaigning against a further increase in electricity prices.
“We demand that the detainees be immediately freed and that those who took the illegal actions against them be punished,” the HAK’s Aram Manukian declared before he and his colleagues walked out of the parliament auditorium.
Another opposition parliamentarian, Nikol Pashinian, said he will protest against the crackdown by voting against any motion that will be put by the Armenian government or its loyal majority in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Pashinian, who leads a recently formed party called Civic Contract, visited police stations in Yerevan and met with some of more than 230 activists kept there earlier in the morning, shortly after the dispersal of the protesters who remained camped out on a major street. HAK representatives did the same later in the day.
Raffi Hovannisian, the leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage), condemned the police actions with a written statement that also accused the Armenian authorities of “desecrating the essence of our homeland.” “These authorities are a complete national disgrace and a real evil,” he charged.
Eduard Sharmazanov, a deputy parliament speaker and the spokesman for the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), dismissed the opposition outcry. “I’m getting the impression that what happened yesterday was genocide,” Sharmazanov said on the parliament floor. He insisted that security forces used “proportionate force” in accordance with Armenia’s laws.
But parliament speaker Galust Sahakian sounded a more conciliatory note, offering to meet with the leaders of the parliamentary factions and discuss the violence. The ensuing meeting was boycotted by the HAK.
Vahram Baghdasarian, the ruling HHK’s parliamentary leader, said after the meeting that the parliamentary forces agreed to strive for the quick release of all detainees.
Recent days’ protests against the electricity price hikes were organized by a non-partisan pressure group mainly consisting of young people. None of the opposition parties was involved in them.