Armenia’s human rights ombudsman on Tuesday criticized police for detaining opposition activists and apparently ill-treating some of them during Monday’s demonstrations held in support of gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan.
Several activists were detained after calling on protesters rallying in the city’s Liberty Square to march to the seized building. Two of them, Andranik Aslanian and Davit Sanasarian, claimed to have been beaten up inside a police vehicle that drove them to interior troop headquarters in Yerevan. They underwent a medical examination in a hospital after being set free a couple of hours later.
Sanasarian, who is an opposition member of Yerevan’s municipal assembly, was diagnosed with concussion. “They hit me in the head for 15 or so times,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Aslanian showed an RFE/RL correspondent a cut on his forehead and numerous bruises on his face and back. “They repeatedly hit and swore at us in the vehicle,” he said.
The ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, said he has asked Armenia’s Special Investigative Service to investigate the police actions. “This is unacceptable,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
In a statement released later in the day, Tatoyan’s office said some of the incidents “contained clear elements of crime” and urged the police to respect Armenians’ freedom of assembly. It also said protesters must ensure that their actions are peaceful.
A police spokesman, Ashot Aharonian, denied that the detained activists were ill-treated in police custody. He said at the same time that an “internal inquiry” has been launched into the alleged abuses.
The police have detained at least 100 opposition activists and supporters since armed members of the Founding Parliament opposition movement seized a police station in Yerevan on Sunday. All of them have been set free after spending several hours in police custody. Human rights groups have condemned the mass detentions as illegal.