Law-enforcement authorities have arrested and moved to prosecute two of the organizers of daily demonstrations held in Yerevan in support of armed members of an opposition group occupying a police station.
Armen Mikaelian, a senior member of the group called Founding Parliament, and Levon Barseghian, a Gyumri-based civic activist, were among 64 people detained by riot police following one such rally held on Tuesday evening. All of them except Mikaelian and Barseghian were set free by Wednesday morning.
A police spokesman said that Mikaelian remains in custody because he illegally possessed a pistol. Another Founding Parliament leader, Alek Yenigomshian, denied the claim, saying the weapon was planted in Mikaelian’s pocket by police officers.
Barseghian risked prosecution on a similar charge. News reports said he is suspected of carrying a knife. A representative of Armenia’s human rights ombudsman Arman Tatoyan visited the activist in police custody to demand additional explanations for his arrest and ensure his access to a lawyer.
The arrests were condemned by human rights activists as well as representatives of some mainstream opposition parties represented in Armenia’s parliament.
Nevertheless, the police detained dozens of more people on Wednesday ahead of another rally which Founding Palriament and its opposition allies planned to hold on a street leading to the Erebuni police station. Davit Sanasarian and Armen Martiroian, well-known opposition politicians involved in the protests, were among them.
The police on Tuesday warned the protest organizers to choose another venue for their rallies, saying that there is a “real danger” of fresh violence on the Erebuni street section. A senior police officer at the scene pointed to that warning when asked by reporters to comment on the mass detentions.