Armenian law-enforcement officers raided on Thursday the homes of members of a hardline opposition group whose leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, was arrested last month on what he considers politically motivated charges.
Sefilian’s Founding Parliament movement said searches were conducted in the private residences of not only its regional activists but also their relatives and friends. It said some of them were also summoned to Armenia’s Investigative Committee for questioning.
“They searched my home this morning but didn’t find anything,” said Smbat Barseghian, a Founding Parliament member residing in Arevashat, a village in the northwestern Shirak province. He said law-enforcement officers pointed to his ties to Sefilian during the search.
Barseghian spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) by phone as he headed to a regional office of the Investigative Committee, which is handling the controversial case against Sefilian.
A spokeswoman for the law-enforcement agency confirmed the searches but declined to comment further.
A senior Founding Parliament figure, Varuzhan Avetisian, said that the joint raids launched by the Armenian police and the Investigative Committee were aimed at bullying members and supporters of the group seeking to topple the government.
“The case fabricated by them is very weak,” claimed Avetisian. “That is why they are trying to intimidate young people as part of it.”
Sefilian was taken into custody on June 20 for allegedly acquiring large quantities of weapons and forming an armed group to seize government buildings in Yerevan. The Investigative Committee also announced the arrest of six other individuals.
Sefilian was afterwards formally charged with only illegal acquisition and possession of weapons and ammunition, however.
The outspoken oppositionist and his associates maintain that he is prosecuted because he planned to thwart Armenian territorial concessions which President Serzh Sarkisian allegedly plans to make to Azerbaijan.