One of the organizers of last summer’s rallies held in support of opposition gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan will likely go on trial soon on what he considers trumped-up and politically motivated charges.
Andrias Ghukasian and other opposition activists led protesters to the city’s Sari Tagh neighborhood overlooking the seized station late on July 29. Riot police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse them after they refused to march back to the city center.
Several organizers of the protest were arrested and charged with provoking “mass disturbances.” All of them except Ghukasian were released on bail in the following weeks. The oppositionists deny the accusations as politically motivated.
Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) has completed its controversial inquiry into Ghukasian’s actions. The criminal case’s almost certain approval by state prosecutors would pave the way for his separate trial.
Ghukasian stands accused of not only organizing riots but also attempting to seize state buildings, take hostages and illegally acquire weapons and explosives. The charges carry more than ten years in prison.
The SIS alleges that Ghukasian organized the Sari Tagh demonstration to try to break through a police cordon, join the gunmen demanding President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation and thus prolong their standoff with security forces.
The activist’s lawyer, Karen Mezhlumian, on Tuesday again laughed off the accusations, saying that they are based on false testimony given by a man with a criminal record. He said SIS investigators have repeatedly rejected his petitions to question other eyewitness and examine video of the unrest.
Mezhlumian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that he has therefore asked Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian to reject the SIS indictment and order a fresh inquiry. But the lawyer did not expect a positive response to from Davtian, saying that the authorities are determined to carry on with their act of “repression against Andrias Ghukasian.”
More than 60 people were injured and hospitalized in the Sari Tagh violence. In a January report, Human Rights Watch said that the use of force against the protesters was “excessive and disproportionate.” The New York-based watchdog also said that the authorities have failed to properly punish law-enforcement officials who committed human rights abuses during the crackdown.