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Authorities Implicate Opposition Groups In Yerevan Riots


Armenia - Angry protesters break into the prime minister's office, Yerevan, November 10, 2020.

The National Security Service (NSS) on Wednesday accused Armenian opposition members and supporters of organizing violent protests in Yerevan following the announcement of the Russian-brokered ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Hundreds of angry men broke into Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s office and residence and the Armenian parliament and ransacked them early on November 10. They condemned the ceasefire agreement as a sellout.

Some of the protesters also beat up parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan. The latter underwent several surgeries as a result.

In a statement, the NSS said it has indicted about 50 people and arrested 18 of them in a continuing criminal investigation into what it described as “mass disturbances” aimed at facilitating a violent overthrow of the Armenian government.

The statement claimed that the participants of the riots were recruited by “supporters of political forces acting in the opposition field and having anti-government views.” Many of the rioters support former Presidents Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian or are affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and other opposition groups, it said.

The security service added that it is now taking “large-scale investigative measures” to ascertain “the role of the organizers of the mass disturbances” and identify more people involved in the violence. It did not say whether it has already brought relevant criminal charges against any opposition politicians.

A senior Dashnaktsutyun member, Bagrat Yesayan, said he has been questioned as a witness in the case but not charged by NSS investigators. He said the NSS is now trying to falsely implicate him in the violence.

Yesayan accused the Armenian authorities of trying to link the riots to peaceful protests against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian launched by Dashnaktsutyun and over a dozen other opposition forces on November 10.

The opposition forces hold Pashinian responsible for the outcome of the war and want him to resign. The prime minister has rejected their demands.

Kocharian’s office was also quick to react to the NSS allegations.

“It is widely known that President Kocharian has thousands of supporters who are patriotic and politically active people and always take part in various demonstrations and protest actions,” the office said in a statement. “The NSS’s functions and capacity are needed for another task: clarifying the motives of treasonous capitulators.”

Pashinian discussed the NSS probe on Monday at a meeting with the heads of Armenian law-enforcement bodies, senior judges and other officials. He seemed upset with Armenian courts’ refusal to sanction the pre-trial arrest of many of the individuals accused of involvement in the November 10 violence.

Opposition figures and other critics of the Armenian government accused Pashinian of pressuring the judiciary. Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, also expressed serious concern over the meeting.

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