Five residents of a Yerevan neighborhood who clashed with riot police during a hostage crisis in 2016 have been released from custody.
The Sari Tagh neighborhood overlooks a police base in the city’s Erebuni district which was seized by radical opposition gunmen demanding the resignation of then President Serzh Sarkisian and the release of the leader of their Founding Parliament movement, Zhirayr Sefilian. Three police officers were killed before the gunmen laid down their weapons at the end of a two-week standoff with Armenian security forces.
During the standoff several dozen male residents of Sari Tagh protested against a police blockage of roads leading to their blue-collar neighborhood imposed for security reasons. They also voiced support for the armed oppositionists holed up in the Erebuni police facility.
The protesters clashed with police officers deployed in Sari Tagh in July 2016. Ten of them were subsequently arrested and charged with assaulting law-enforcement officers, a crime punishable by between 5 and 10 years in prison. They went on trial last year, denying any wrongdoing.
A Yerevan court on Thursday agreed to free one of the defendants pending the outcome of the continuing trial. Four other defendants were set free on Friday.
One of them, Harutiun Torosian, attributed their release to the recent change of government in Armenia. He also said that he will continue to plead not guilty to the accusations.
Relatives and lawyers of the five other defendants hope that they too will be set free in the coming days.