Lilit Makunts, the parliamentary leader of the ruling My Step alliance, said on Wednesday that the Armenian police must explain why they briefly detained at least four activists highly critical of the government.
The police said on Tuesday that two of the outspoken activists, Narek Malian and Konstantin Ter-Nakalian, were held in custody for several hours on suspicion of illegal arms possession. They did not comment on two other detentions which were reported later in the day.
Immediately after being set free without charge, the activists claimed that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian ordered the police actions in a bid to humiliate and bully them.
Representatives of the two opposition parties represented in Armenian parliament expressed concern over the detentions. Arman Abovian of the Prosperous Armenia Party cited “quite serious questions” about their legality and timing.
Taron Simonian, a lawmaker representing the Bright Armenia Party, saw “no obvious grounds” for the detentions carried out by masked officers of a special police unit tasked with combatting organized crime. “I am asking and urging our police officers to stick to the letter of the law,” he said.
Makunts, who leads the parliamentary group of Pashinian’s My Step bloc, reacted to those concerns.
“I think that law-enforcement bodies should present explanations of the grounds on which they took the actions,” Makunts told reporters. “I don’t think that it’s right to evaluate those grounds that before the law-enforcers present them.”
“As for the detained individuals, if they think that their rights were violated there are all necessary legal provisions for them to protect their rights,” she said. “In the meantime, we will wait for the police explanations.”
Makunts added that she will raise the matter with the acting chief of the national police, Arman Sargsian, when he meets with My Step lawmakers on Thursday.
One of those lawmakers, Hayk Konjorian, denied that the radical activists are persecuted for their political views and activities.
“Only politicians can be subjected to political persecution in any hypothetical situation,” said Konjorian. “There is no political persecution in Armenia. Armenia has a fully democratic system. The individuals who were detained yesterday are not politicians.”
Malian used to work as an adviser to former police chief Vladimir Gasparian and now leads a group called Veto. Ter-Nakalian and another activist, Artur Danielian, are the leaders of the nationalist Adekvad movement. Both groups rely heavily on social media in their campaigns against the government.