Police in Italy reportedly attempted to detain on Tuesday a prominent Armenian opposition leader, Nikol Pashinian, on an apparently outdated international arrest warrant.
“A short while ago the Italian police besieged my hotel room in Rome,” Pashinian wrote on his Facebook page. “They came to arrest me.”
“It turns out that the Armenian authorities have been hunting for me through Interpol. They’ve been hunting since 2008 but still can’t find me,” he added with sarcasm.
Pashinian, who was in Rome on a private trip, also posted a photograph of himself surrounded by four armed policemen inside his hotel room. They looked on as the 42-year-old member of Armenia’s parliament seemingly searched for some information on his notebook computer. He was most probably not taken into custody after all.
According to an Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, the Italian police assured Armenia’s embassy in Rome later in the day that they no longer have any issues with Pashinian. Embassy officials are now trying to contact the outspoken oppositionist, said the official.
Pashinian is one of the top leaders of the opposition Yelk alliance. The pro-Western alliance holds 9 seats in Armenia’s 105-member parliament.
Pashinian was among several dozen opposition figures who went into hiding in March 2008 during the Armenian authorities’ post-election crackdown on former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement.The deadly crackdown was criticized by the Council of Europe and other international human rights organizations.
Pashinian surrendered to law-enforcement authorities in July 2009. He was subsequently tried and sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of inciting “mass disturbances” in Yerevan which he denied as politically motivated. He was set free in May 2011 under a general amnesty.
Reacting to the Rome incident, the Armenian police insisted that they withdrew their international arrest warrant for Pashinian three weeks after his surrender. A police statement said Interpol’s Secretariat General in Lyon, France was promptly informed about that before sending similar notifications to the international police organization’s member states.
In separate comments to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), the Armenian police spokesman, Ashot Aharonian, suggested that Italian law-enforcement authorities failed to update their most wanted list based on Interpol records.
“The Interpol database should have been updated,” said Edmon Marukian, another leader of Yelk. “Namely, information [regarding Pashinian] should have long been removed from it. Pashinian has visited the United States, Great Britain and many other European countries. This is the first time that he is having such problems.”