Just one hour after his failed meeting with Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, opposition leader Nikol Pashinian was detained by police on Sunday during yet another anti-government demonstration organized by him in Yerevan.
Pashinian was confronted by masked police officers and other security personnel as he led a crowd of several hundred supporters marching to the city’s southern Erebuni district. The police fired stun grenades to stop the march.
Several other protesters, including Sasun Mikaelian and Ararat Mirzoyan, close associates of Pashinian, were also detained on the spot. Most demonstrators started moving back to the city center about 30 minutes later. Others stayed on and chanted “Nikol!”
Mikaelian was dragged away by policemen moments after urging the protesters to “free Nikol” and continue to fight for Sarkisian’s resignation. “They want to strangle our freedom, come here, don’t be afraid of anyone,” he shouted.
In a statement, the Armenian police said Pashinian, Mikaelian and Mirzoyan were “forcibly removed from the site of the gathering” because of being the organizers of an “illegal” demonstration. The statement did not say whether they will be prosecuted.
Pashinian and the two other politicians are members of the Armenian parliament representing the opposition Yelk alliance. Law-enforcement authorities need the National Assembly’s permission to charge and remand them in pre-trial custody. They can hold the three men in custody without a charge for up to 72 hours.
Earlier in the morning, Pashinian met with Sarkisian and again demanded his resignation. The premier rejected the demand and said Pashinian will bear “full responsibility” for his push for regime change.