Law-enforcement authorities have arrested another organizer of daily demonstrations held in Yerevan in support of armed members of an Armenian opposition group holed up in a police station.
Alek Yenigomshian, a leading member of the Founding Parliament radical opposition movement, was detained along with several other opposition figures on Wednesday evening as they were about to hold their next rally in Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
Yenigomshian’s lawyer, Nikolay Baghdasarian, said on Thursday that his client is suspected of aiding the gunmen affiliated with Founding Parliament. Baghdasarian denied that, saying that the National Security Service (NSS) has failed to come up with any evidence.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), the lawyer also claimed the arrest is illegal because NSS officers committed serious procedural violations.
The NSS has not yet publicized any details of the criminal proceedings launched against Yenigomshian.
Yenigomshian has been the main speaker at virtually daily rallies held for the past week at a section of Khorenatsi Street close to the police compound in the city’s southern Erebuni district. The gunmen seized it on July 17 to demand the release of Founding Parliament’s jailed top leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, and President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation.
Another senior Founding Parliament figure, Armen Mikaelian, and Levon Barseghian, a prominent civic campaigner who has also addressed Khorenatsi Street rallies, were arrested on Tuesday. The two men look set to be charged with illegal possession of a weapon and knife respectively. Their supporters have laughed off the accusations.
Throughout Wednesday, the police detained at least 66 persons in an attempt to prevent another anti-government rally at the Khorenatsi Street section located just a few hundred meters from the seized police facility.
The detained persons included Arsinee Khanjian, a renowned Canadian-Armenian actress. Khanjian delivered an emotional speech on Tuesday at a rally held in support of the Founding Parliament gunmen locked in a standoff with Armenian security forces. She was released several hours later, with the police calling her arrest a “misunderstanding.”
All other detainees except Yenigomshian were set free by Thursday morning.
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.
The ensuing mass detentions forced protest leaders remaining at large to rally several hundred supporters in Liberty Square on Wednesday evening. They were able to march through the city center to the Khorenatsi Street section blocked by several rows of policemen clad in riot gear. The protest there ended peacefully shortly after midnight.
The mass detentions were strongly criticized by Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, and non-governmental groups. “The purpose of yesterday’s demonstrative abuses was to scare away the organizers and participants of rallies,” said Artur Sakunts, a human rights activist.