A total of 47 people have been arrested in connection with the armed attack on a police compound in Yerevan carried out by members of a radical opposition group, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said on Monday.
They include the remaining 20 gunmen that surrendered to the NSS late on Sunday after occupying the compound for two weeks. At least 10 other members of the armed group were captured by security forces earlier.
The detained persons apparently also include a still unknown number of individuals suspected or accused of aiding the gunmen affiliated with the Founding Parliament opposition movement. Among them are two leading members of Founding Parliament that organized demonstrations in support of the gunmen.
An NSS statement said that 24 of the 47 detainees have already been formally charged with seizure of state buildings, hostage taking or illegal arms possession. It did not name any of them, saying instead that a criminal investigation into the armed attack is being conducted under three corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code.
The statement made no mention of another Criminal Code clause that deals with “terrorism.”
The NSS branded the 20 gunmen “terrorists” when it announced their surrender the previous night.
Some Armenian legal experts were quick to criticize that characterization. “That was a violation of the presumption of innocence,” one of them, Ara Ghazarian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Immediately after seizing the police compound and killing one police officer there on July 17, the armed group demanded the release of Founding Parliament’s jailed leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, and President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation. It also urged Armenians to take to the streets and voice support for their “rebellion.”
The Armenian authorities rejected those demands.
Shortly after the surrender, the gunmen’s leader, Varuzhan Avetisian, said continued armed resistance would be meaningless as security forces have been methodically shooting and wounding members of his group calling themselves “Sasna Tsrer” (Daredevils of Sasun). He said they therefore chose to avoid further bloodshed and become “prisoners of war” instead.