Monday, 18 July 2016

Dramatic Armenian News... A Topalian... Calls to give up police hostage

July 18 2016
Authorities in Armenia call on police hostage takers to give up
YEREVAN | By Hasmik Mkrtchyan

Authorities in Armenia called on gunmen holed up in a police station
in the capital Yerevan to lay down their arms on Monday and release
four people they were holding hostage.

The gunmen seized the police station and hostages on Sunday, killing
one police officer and wounding two others in the process before
demanding Armenians take to the streets to secure the release of
jailed opposition politicians.

They released two hostages on Sunday and three more on Monday, the
security service said.

Negotiations to end the situation peacefully are underway.

The hostage takers' main demand is to free Jirair Sefilian, an
opposition leader whom the authorities have accused of plotting civil
unrest. Sefilian was jailed in June over allegations of illegally
possessing weapons.

The security service said talks were deadlocked so far.

"The armed group is refusing to release other hostages, including high
ranking officials, to lay down their weapons, or to surrender," the
National Security Service said in a statement, saying the group posed
a direct threat to society.

Yerevan's deputy police chief, Valery Osipyan, was reported to be
among the hostages as was Vardan Yeghiazaryan, the country's deputy
police chief.

The security service said the outcome remained uncertain.

"Law enforcement agencies are doing everything they can to end this
peacefully, but in the circumstances it might not be enough," it said.

"That's why we again appeal to the members of the armed group ... to
end their armed resistance. For now, there is still time and the
opportunity to do that."

(Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Andrew Osborn) 

Georgia Today
July 18 2016
Standoff with Gunmen Continues as Armenian Police Crack 
Down on Activists
By Karen Tovmasyan
Edited by Nicholas Waller

YEREVAN - The situation in the Armenian capital Yerevan remains tense
as negotiations between the police and a radical armed opposition
group that attacked and seized a police station in a daring raid

The group remains barricaded inside the Erebuni District police
station with four hostages that include Armenia’s Deputy Police Chief
Vardan Yeghiazaryan and Yerevan’s Deputy Chief Valery Osipyan.

Armenia’s First Deputy Police Chief General Hunan Poghosyan said one
police colonel was killed and two other officers were wounded during
the attack.

The militants – a radical splinter group of the Himnadir Khorhrdaran
(Founding Parliament) party – have demanded the resignation of
President Serzh Sargsyan and the release of prominent opposition
leader and a noted commander during the 1988-1994 Nagorno-Karabakh
War, Jirayir Sefilyan.

Sefilyan was arrested in late June after being accused of planning an
armed coup with the gunmen's leader Varujan Avetisyan.

In a video released via social media the gunmen – most of whom,
including Avetisyan, are Karabakh war veterans – called on the
Armenian population to organize anti-government protests and demand
Sargsyan’s ouster.

National Security Service (NSS) officials – Armenia’s intelligence
agency – briefly blocked access to Facebook on Sunday and police
officials quickly started limiting journalists’ access to the location
of the standoff. Unconfirmed reports by independent news sources in
Yerevan claim that NSS officers have arrested dozens of opposition
activists without explanation.

The reports also claim that several homes of civic and opposition
activists in Yerevan, Gyumri and Vanadzor were raided by police units.

According to unconfirmed sources, Yerevan’s police broke up a small
gathering of opposition members on the city’s central Freedom Square
and detained up to 400 people. Armenia’s human rights ombudsman
confirmed that 50 people arrested in connection to Sunday's events had
been released.

According to a Facebook post by 17-year-old activist Shahen
Harutyunyan, he and others were arrested by riot police and accused of
"supporting an armed group" while demonstrating on Freedom Square.

Police sharpshooters, special-forces units and armored personnel
carriers have been dispatched to the scene.

NSS officials have warned the group that it must immediately turn over
the heavy weaponry seized during the original attack on the station
and surrender to security services, or face the possibility of a raid.

TASS, Russia
July 18 2016
One more hostage released in Yerevan — Armenian Security Service

About 30 opposition supporters riding a truck rammed into the gates of
the Armenian patrol and inspection police regiment in Yerevan early on
Sunday and burst into the regiment’s territory

YEVERAN, July 18. /TASS/. Armed terrorists who seized a patrol and
inspection police regiment in Terevan have released one more hostage,
a spokesman for Armenia’s National Security Service told TASS on

"As a result of comprehensive measures taken by the republic’s law
enforcement agencies, including negotiations, one more hostage has
been released," the spokesman said.

"Nevertheless, such encouraging episodes, do not rule out possible
tragic developments and the organizers of the attack will be held
responsible for them," the spokesman stressed.

"Terrorists must be aware that they have on other option than to
fulfill of the demands of the authorities the soonest possible," the
spokesman said. "Armenia’s law enforcement agencies still hope that
the members of the armed group will be guided by common sense in

Armenian Police First Deputy Chief, Lieutenant-General Unan Pogosyan
said earlier that "the police’s demands remain the same: to release
all hostages, halt the standoff and destabilization and surrender to
the authorities."

"The situation remains the same: the negotiations are continuing and
an officer as a contact person is negotiating with a representative of
the armed group," Pogosyan said.

The general also said that "the police, other law-enforcement bodies
are continuing search and operational and preventive work." During the
night, the armed group released two hostages - a policeman and the
driver of an ambulance, the general said. 
Live: Demonstrators start march in Yerevan 
July 18,2016 

20.55 Activists have started a march from Liberty Square through the
central streets of the Armenian capital.

No decision will be taken in connection with armed group unless they
take unwise steps

20.54 In reply to demands posed by human rights ctivist Avetik
Ishkhanyan, General Hunan Poghosyan said the police will conduct an
investigation against all policemen who broke the law after studying
the video material.

the Deputy Chief of the Armenian police added that people gathered at
Liberty Square should not forget that a few hours ago policemen had
lost one of their friends during an armed attack on the Erebuni police

Speaking about the gunmen, Mr Poghosyan said, “We continue to
negotiations with the hostage takers. The negotiations are conducted
in a civilized manner. At first they had nine hostages, now they have
four. They were released as a result of ongoing negotiations and, why
not, as ‘a sign of goodwill’ by the attackers. The police also
demonstrate goodwill. No decision will be taken in connection with the
group as long as they take an unwise step.”

Policemen leave Liberty Square at the request of activists

20.44 Addressing people at Liberty Square, human rights activist
Avetik Ishkhanyan offered to present three demands to the Deputy Chief
of the Armenian police [Hunan Poghosyan].

“First, they should give a clear guarantee that the law enforcement
bodies will not use force against the armed gunmen [who seized the
Erebuni police building on Sunday]. Second, they must arrest all those
arrested today and finally, all policemen responsible for those
illegitimate actions should be published,” he said.

20.30 Deputy Chief of the Armenian police, General Hunan Poghosyan has
left the area of the Opera House. Policemen gathered at the square
followed suit at the request of the activists.

Activists injured at Liberty Square

20.15 While human rights activist Avetik Ishkhanyan was trying to
explain to deputy chief of the Armenian police Hunan Poghosyan in the
central part of Liberty Square that the police had interfered with the
peaceful  gathering,  numerous ‘red hats’ showed off at the square and
chained the citizens.

20.12 Activists Levon Zakaryan and Artush Chibukhchyan were rushed to
hospital after clashes between demonstrators and police at Liberty

“I tell deputy chief of the Armenian police Hunan Poghosyan that the
police used violence against people inflicting injuries on them, he
says there is no such thing,” activist Rima Sargsyan told A1+.

She says after violating people’s right to freedom of speech, police
officers began punching and hitting those gathered at the square.

Demonstrators return to Liberty Square

20.00 As a result of talks between citizens and General Hunan
Poghosyan, the first deputy chief of the Armenian police, Northern
Avenue was re-opened for the demonstrators who returned to Liberty

Police unable to stop the flow of people

19:53 The situation is very tense at Liberty Square the flow of people

Some time ago, police officers detained activist Davit Sanasaryan who
called the participants of public hearings to head for the Erebuni
police department which has been seized by and armed group affiliated
with the radical opposition movement [Founding Parliament ] for the
second day.

Chief of Yerevan Police Ashot Karapetyan urged Sanasaryan to avoid
illegal calls. Police officers cordoned off the area disallowing
people from entering the square. Citizens were able to break through
the police cordon and drive them away from the square.

At present, people gathered at the square are moving along the nearby
streets and opposite pavements calling everyone to join them.

First Deputy Chief of Police Hunan Poghosyan sys some people are
unnecessarily exciting passions instead of preventing further
bloodshed. He labeled it a reckless step.

Human rights activist Avetik Ishkhanyan told Poghosyan that people
were holding a peaceful rally when police officers attacked them.

Before the start of the discussion, those gathered at the square
honoured the memory of the police officers who was killed yesterday. 

Al-Jazeera, Qatar
July 18 2016
Armenian hostage standoff and political implications

The violent act of hostage-taking is a manifestation of 
significant discontent within Armenia.

By Richard Giragosian, the founding director of the 
Regional Studies Centre, an independent think tank 
in Yerevan, Armenia.
Early in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning, a small group of
well-armed gunmen stormed a local police station in Yerevan, forcibly
taking several police officers hostage.

After an initial assault on the first day by police seeking to retake
the police station and rescue the hostages failed, the crisis quickly
turned into a standoff.

The crisis also rapidly escalated as a senior police officer was
killed and several wounded, including at least three critically, in
the failed assault.

The gunmen, comprising members and supporters of a small, fringe, yet
radical, political opposition organisation known for its hard-line
policies over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, demanded the immediate
release of their jailed leader and called for the resignation of
incumbent President Serzh Sarkisian.

In addition to demanding the release of their leader, Jirair Sefilian,
who remains in custody following his arrest on weapons charges in
June, the gunmen also defended their act as a preliminary move to a
nationwide "rebellion", although with no sign of popular support or
political standing.

A hostage standoff

More than a dozen people seized the police station, taking hostage
several police officers, including the deputy head of the national
police, Vartan Yeghiazarian, and Yerevan's deputy police chief, Valeri

The two senior police officials were reportedly taken hostage,
willingly or involuntarily, after coming to the scene to negotiate
with the group. One police hostage was subsequently released,
reportedly for health reasons.

Although the gunmen may have genuinely expected some sort of popular
support, they were quickly disappointed. Moreover, the incident and
the lack of any popular reaction only confirmed the marginal standing
of this radical fringe group within Armenian society.

Yet, this hostage standoff was serious, for two reasons. First, this
particular police station was targeted for a reason - as one of the
largest depositories of police weapons in the capital, with an onsite
arsenal that was seized by the attackers.

This absence of any military role in Armenian politics also greatly
diminishes any risk of a coordinated coup d'etat.

Second, the gunmen were veterans of the Karabakh war, with little to
lose and with extensive experience in handling the weapons at their

And after an initial police assault to retake the police station on
the first day failed, the gunmen were better prepared, and
strengthened their positions, using the hostages as human shields,
making any rescue operation especially difficult.

And with police snipers and special police paramilitary units deployed
to surround the building, the risk of further deaths in any renewed
assault was seen, at least in the first 24 hours, as an unacceptable

The deeper implications

Aside from the radical, yet amateur, nature of this crisis, there are
several deeper, more significant implications, however.

First, although the takeover of the police station is in itself a
criminal act of desperation, there are undeniable political overtones
to the crisis.

The now commonly used and abused use of pre-trial detention and
questionable moves by the Armenian authorities against the opposition
group's leader tended to undercut the standing of the government.

Policemen block a street after a group of armed men seized a police
station along with an unknown number of hostages [Reuters]

And a demonstrable "political paranoia" within the country's ruling
elite has only fostered an inherently dangerous record of overreaction
by the police, with the targeting of far too many civic activists and
political opponents well beyond any real threat.

Yet, the criminal actions by this group have only reinforced the
Armenian government's position, helping to bolster and even justify
its crackdown on this fringe group.

But the deeply rooted political issues of entrenched corruption, a
record of falsified elections and a general perception of an
"arrogance of power", defined by a political elite committed to ruling
but not governing the country, are also symptomatic of the more
significant political backdrop to this crisis.

No military threat

A second deeper implication stems from what did not occur. More
specifically, unlike its neighbours, Armenia enjoys a fairly
impressive degree of stable civil-military relations, with no record
of any involvement in politics by the army.

Although in the country's violent post-election crisis of March 2008,
in which unarmed demonstrators were killed in clashes with the police,
former President Robert Kocharian deployed special military units from
Nagorno-Karabakh, with no significant involvement of the Armenian
armed forces in that tragic episode.

OPINION: Nagorno-Karabakh is not a localised conflict

This absence of any military role in Armenian politics also greatly
diminishes any risk of a coordinated coup d'etat.

Even the forced resignation of the country's first President, Levon
Ter-Petrosyan, was a constitutional crisis which the country
successfully overcame, rather than a trigger for outright civil war or
domestic discord.

A third factor revealing the broader implications from this crisis is
the political context. Notably, the silence and passivity of the
country's traditional opposition parties only magnifies their place as
largely discredited and popularly dismissed forces on the Armenian
political landscape.

Rather, the emergence of new opposition forces was only confirmed in
the move by opposition parliamentarian Nikol Pashinyan - one of the
leaders of the "Civil Contract" political party - who was the only
person accepted by all sides as an interlocutor during this crisis.

Pashinyan was able to open personal negotiations with the hostage
takers, seeking to persuade them of the futility of their actions and
urging them to surrender.

Thus, as the course of this crisis demonstrates, the violent act of
hostage-taking is not only a manifestation of significant discontent
within Armenia, but also confirms the reality that the risk of a coup
d'etat in Armenia is only more remote and unlikely.

Richard Giragosian is the founding director of the Regional Studies
Center, an independent think-tank in Yerevan, Armenia.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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