Armenian law-enforcement authorities have pledged to investigate threats of violence reported by a lawyer representing one of the radical opposition members who seized a police station in Yerevan last year.
The lawyer, Arayik Papikian, claimed to have received the threats earlier this week. Armenia’s state human rights ombudsman and the head of the national bar association were quick to express concern and demand an inquiry.
Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian on Wednesday instructed the Armenian police to look into the reported threats and consider opening a criminal case. A spokesman for the police told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that they are now “preparing materials” for the possible launch of a formal criminal investigation.
Papikian specified on Thursday that he received two online messages from a Facebook user, identified as Emma Sahakyan, insulting him, demanding that he stop defending “murderers,” and threatening him and his relatives with violence.
“At first, the threats were related only to me and my professional activities,” Papikian told a news conference. “The latest threats are also addressed to members of my family. I am almost certain that the sender of those letters is using a fake name.”
“I want to believe that the threats will not become a reality and I will carry on with my normal life and keep doing my job,” he said.
Papikian implicitly linked the alleged threats to what he called an ongoing “persecution” of himself and his colleagues representing the arrested opposition gunmen who went on two separate trials earlier this summer.
The trials have been effectively paralyzed by bitter disputes between the presiding judges and the defendants and their attorneys. The latter have routinely been expelled from the courtrooms for what was deemed contempt of court.
Last month, a senior prosecutor demanded that Armenia’s Chamber of Advocates take disciplinary action against Papikian. The move stemmed from his Facebook post which accused police officers of beating up his client, Arayik Khandoyan, in the basement of a Yerevan court where he has been standing trial. “The riposte will be just and very painful for the regime,” read the statement posted by the lawyer on June 29.
Khandoyan and three dozen other men seized the police base in Yerevan’s Erebuni district in July 2016 to demand that President Serzh Sarkisian free the jailed leader of their Founding Parliament movement and resign. They laid down their arms after a two-week standoff with security forces which left three police officers dead.