Angry local residents blamed Pashinian for Armenia’s defeat in last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh which has gravely affected their communities. Dozens of them swore at him and branded him a “capitulator” as he walked through the Syunik towns of Agarak and Meghri on April 21.
Pashinian described the protests as a “violation of the law” at a meeting with senior government and law-enforcement officials held in the provincial capital Kapan. He told the chiefs of Armenia’s police and National Security Service (NSS) to respond “in a tough manner.”
More than two dozen people were rounded up and charged with hooliganism and/or violent resistance to police in the following days. Courts in Yerevan ordered virtually of all them freed pending investigation.
While condemning the protesters for the verbal abuse, the state human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, accused the prime minister of issuing unlawful orders to the law-enforcement agencies. Armenian opposition figures said, for their part, Pashinian openly ordered a political persecution of the disgruntled Syunik residents.
Davtian flatly denied that. He said Pashinian simply addressed the NSS and police chiefs technically subordinate to the premier and “shared” with them his thoughts about the Syunik incidents.
“It’s wrong to speak of any political persecution. In general, I don’t like using that term,” the chief prosecutor told reporters.
The arrests made in Syunik sparked protests in Yerevan. Hundreds of opposition supporters demanding the release of the detainees rallied outside the prosecutors headquarters and clashed with riot police on April 22.
Several of those protesters were themselves detained as a result. At least one of them remains under arrest, having been charged with violent assault.
Davtian denounced the demonstrators. “Participants of the protest said, ‘Come down and tells us whom you will stop persecuting and when.’ No prosecutor will come out and say such a thing,” he said.