Tuesday, 2 August 2016


RFE/RL Report
Armenian Parliament Refuses To Debate Hostage Crisis
July 28, 2016
Tatevik Lazarian

The pro-government majority in Armenia's parliament thwarted on
Thursday opposition lawmakers' attempts to force an emergency 

session on the continuing standoff between security forces and 
gunmen occupying a police station.

Only 19 members of the 131-seat National Assembly, virtually all of
them opposition deputies, formally demanded such a debate.

The parliament would have had to convene if at least 44 deputies
signed a corresponding petition circulated by Nikol Pashinian, the
leader of the opposition Civil Contract party.

Pashinian demanded the session on Wednesday amid continuing 
protests staged by supporters of the gunmen. The latter seized the 
police station in Yerevan on July 17 to demand the release of 
Zhirayr Sefilian, the arrested leader of their Founding Parliament 
radical opposition movement, and regime change.

Explaining his initiative, Pashinian dismissed arguments that the
parliament is now in recess. "Let them interrupt their holidays and
get back to work," he said of his pro-government colleagues.

"Political forces must now step in," said another opposition lawmaker,
Stepan Markarian. "An intervention by the National Assembly is one of
the best ways of doing that."

Markarian is affiliated with former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian's
Consolidation party. Other lawmakers backing Pashinian's initiative
represent the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK),
Zharangutyun and Orinats Yerkir parties.

None of the deputies from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK)
and its junior coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), could be reached for comment on Thursday.

The pro-government legislators have kept an unusually low profile ever
since the 30 or so gunmen stormed the police compound in Yerevan's
Erebuni district and took hostages there. For his part, President
Serzh Sarkisian has only once publicly commented on the hostage
crisis, demanding that the gunmen lay down their arms.

Incidentally, Sarkisian was expected to chair on Thursday evening a
meeting of the HHK's governing body. Some news reports said the
standoff with the gunmen will be on the meeting's agenda.

Lawyer: Health condition of wounded Pavel Manukyan deteriorates, 
as he refuses food and medicines
by Tatevik Shahunyan
Friday, July 29, 16:32
The health condition of Pavel Manukyan, a member of the armed group "Daredevils of Sasoun" who was wounded on July 27 during a skirmish with the Police in the area of the seized police regiment, remains heavy and deteriorates as he refuses medicines and food.

Manukyan's lawyer Inessa Petrosyan told ArmInfo's correspondent he rejects the charges brought against him saying he acted for patriotic purposes and is ready to continue his fight for the people.

The measure of restraint against Pavel Manukyan has not been chosen yet, as he expressed desire to attend the court as soon as he is able. Unlike other wounded members of the group, who were transferred to the hospital for prisoners, Manukyan is in the medical center Erebuni.

Pavel Manukyan's son Aram who was also wounded during the skirmish with the Police on July 27 was transferred to the hospital for prisoners as he was arrested for two months.
Lawyer Inessa Petrosyan's says the room of Aram Manukyan is extremely poor and dirty and he may even get blood infection there. The lawyer said he does not receive the necessary care. Therefore, the lawyer said, she has applied to the competent agencies for Aram Manukyan's transfer to the regular hospital.

Riot Police Assault on Protesters In Yerevan, Many Injured
July 29, 2016

YEREVAN — Riot police clashed late on Friday with hundreds of people
near a police compound in Yerevan occupied by gunmen affiliated with
an Armenian opposition group.

The violence unfolded amid the sound of gunshots and explosions coming
from the compound located in the city’s southern Erebuni district. It
was not immediately clear whether security forces were conducting a
large-scale operation there.

Most of the protesters sympathetic to the gunmen unexpectedly tried to
approach the building from the nearby Sari Tagh neighborhood. Using
tear gas and stun grenades, the police charged towards them after the
protest leaders ignored senior law-enforcement officers’ orders to
walk back to the city center.

The chief of Yerevan’s police department, Ashot Karapetian, said that
the rally is illegal and that gunshots fired around the compound are
too dangerous for its participants.

Some protesters as well as three RFE/RL journalists — Karlen Aslanian,
Hovannes Movsisian and Garik Harutiunian — were attacked and beaten up
by a large group of plainclothes men as they retreated towards
downtown Yerevan. The men, who appeared to be police officers, were
clearly aware that they are assaulting reporters.

“Are you filming?” one of them said before punching Movsisian,
smashing his camera and tearing off his ID badge.

“I told them that I stopped filming but they kept hitting me,”
Movsisian said by phone as he ran for safety and took cover in a local
shop shortly before midnight.

“They are chasing us and trying to arrest everyone in sight,” he said,
adding that he witnessed dozens of protesters injured and detained at
the scene.

The two other RFE/RL reporters were also injured before fleeing to
safety through another Sari Tagh street.

Earlier on Friday Armenian security forces shot and wounded three more
gunmen in the continuing standoff with the gunmen barricaded inside
the police compound.

The Armenian police spokesman, Ashot Aharonian, said they “returned
fire” after the gunmen again started firing gunshots in defiance of
warnings issued by law-enforcement authorities. “One of the shooters,
Arayik Khandoyan, was wounded,” he said.

Aharonian said the gunfire continued after Khandoyan’s was struck by a
bullet. “Two more shooters were wounded by retaliatory fire from
law-enforcers,” he wrote on Facebook later in the evening. “They are
receiving adequate medical assistance.”

Aharonian said the gunmen, Artur Melkonian and Armen Lambarian, were
taken to the nearby Erebuni hospital afterwards.

Around the same time, an RFE/RL correspondent witnessed the
hospitalization of two men outside the hospital entrance guarded by
masked and armed security officers. She reported that one of them was
Lambarian but could not recognize the other man.

Varuzhan Avetisian, the gunmen’s leader, blamed the police and the
National Security Service (NSS) for Khandoyan’s shooting when he spoke
to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) before the two other
gunmen were reportedly wounded.

“We contacted an NSS representative and he said, ‘You are shooting and
that is why were are returning fire,’”Avetisian said by phone.

“But we are not shooting at them,” he said. “We are shooting inside
our territory for our safety. We are shooting at an [unmanned aerial]
device to make sure that it doesn’t drop bombs and harm us.”

Avetisian said that Khandoyan was wounded in the leg and immediately
treated by three medics that were taken hostage by the gunmen on
Wednesday.They claimed that the ambulance crew are not hostages. But
he admitted that they are being held in the seized compound against
their will.

“The presence of doctors here is a matter of life or death for us,”
said Avetisian. “We are not holding the doctors hostage, we just need
medical aid.”

“If there are no doctors here they will shoot us one by one,” he said.

Avetisian insisted on Friday that the three medics will be allowed to
leave the compound only if they are replaced by another ambulance

Taguhi Stepanian, the chief of Yerevan’s public ambulance service,
rejected that condition. “They deceived us when they held our doctors
[on Wednesday,]” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“They had told us that they have two seriously wounded persons and
that they want the doctors to transport them to hospital.”

“Then they told the doctors, ‘You won’t get out of here until our
demands are met,” said Stepanyan. 

Global News, Canada
July 29 2016
Armenian officers wound gunmen, clash with protesters at 
week-long hostage situation
By Avet Demourian The Associated Press

YEREVAN– Security forces on Friday wounded three more of the
armed members of an opposition group who have been barricaded inside a
police station in the Armenian capital for nearly two weeks, and riot
police later used stun grenades to break up a demonstration in support
of the opposition gunmen.

The three gunmen were wounded in an exchange of gunfire with security
forces, police spokesman Ashot Agaronyan said on Facebook.

Story continues below

A high-ranking police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity
because he was not authorized to release information, said the gunmen
were hit in the legs by snipers after emerging from the station.

A group of about 30 gunmen seized the police post in Yerevan on July
17, killing one officer and wounding several others in the attack, to
demand freedom for an opposition figure arrested in June.

Besides the three gunmen wounded Friday, five others were wounded in
previous exchanges of fire with police. Six were hospitalized and two
remained inside the police station, where they were receiving
treatment from three members of an ambulance crew who were being held

The standoff has set off a series of anti-government demonstrations,
held nearly daily in the evening.

More than 4,000 protesters gathered in a central square on Friday
evening and several hundred of them later set off for the area around
the besieged police station.

Riot police set off stun grenades to disperse the protesters and
clashes broke out.

Scuffles broke out between demonstrators and riot police on
the streets of the Armenian capital early on Saturday, as the standoff
continued after a group of 29 gunmen seized a police post in Yerevan
on July 17. The gunmen are demanding freedom for a jailed opposition
figure. More than 4,000 protesters had gathered in a central square on
Friday evening.

Ombudsman demands immediate criminal case to be initiated 
against police officers
July 30,2016 | Official 

Statement by the HRD Office

The Ombudsman has demanded an immediate criminal case to be initiated against police officers regarding injuring citizens during the events in Sari Tagh on July 29.

A demand has been presented to immediately suspend the police officers who are suspected in those actions until the clarification of all circumstances of the case, regardless whether or not the officers were in uniform or not.

Editors condemn targeted attacks on journalists

“I strongly condemn the actions of the policemen and non-uniformed people, who left the impression of gang members carrying out inadequate and incorrect actions against protestors, especially the journalists,” Aram Abrahamyan, Chief Editor of Aravot daily said during a press conference commenting on the events at Sari Tagh neighbourhood.

“They targeted the journalists and attacked them to interrupt live broadcasts and destroy photos, videos and recordings, so that their actions would not to be recorded. However, as it was also proved during the Electric Yerevan that’s impossible,” he added.

According to Abrahamyan, whatever happened was revenge against the public and the journalists, which is strongly condemnable.

Concerning the issue of how the news are being edited in this critical moments, Mesrop Movsesyan, the director of A1+ news agency, who was also present during the press conference noted that the editor and the journalist discuss what should be broadcasted. “Yet when they’re trying to close your mouth, cut off your tongue, break your hands and the camera, it becomes difficult to think about how to edit [the information]”.

Speaking about whether the journalists are protected when carrying out their professional duties and whether they can leave the scene when their safety is endangered, he noted that professional journalists never leave. “I’ve visited our reporter, Robert Ananyan at the hospital. While having numerous injuries, he wasn’t scared. He worked about an hour while bleeding”.

IT security expert, Samvel Martirosyan also condemned the attacks highlighting that applying such means in an inhabited area is incomprehensible.

“Attacking journalists is a serious case. After the events at Baghramyan, the journalists’ community wasn’t consistent enough in order for the real culprits to be punished. So now we see the results. The journalists’ community shouldn’t just express their joint opinion, rather they need to resort to certain actions”.

Speaking about blocking the news, he said that pursuing journalists the issue wouldn’t be solved, as anyone with a cell phone is a potential journalist. “We have thousands of journalists today who provide information from the scene. It’s just that many of them aren’t professional”.

They also noted that in response, journalists could refuse to cover certain areas.

Relatives Not Allowed to Visit Hospitalized Protesters; 
Law Enforcement Officers Given Free Passage to ICU

Family members of the dozens of protesters who were admitted to Yerevan’s Surb Grigor Lusavorich hospital with police-inflicted injuries last night have been barred from visiting their relatives at the hospital’s intensive care unit; meanwhile, investigators and law enforcement officers are free to come and go as they please, as witnessed by an Epress.am correspondent today.

“Last night they wouldn’t let us leave, now they won’t let us in,” a middle-aged woman complained to our reporter, adding that she had nothing to do with “your events” and only wanted to enter the unit to take care of her father.

As many as 50 people were rushed here late on Friday with severe burns, broken bones and damaged eyes after Armenia’s riot police used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse a crowd of supporters of a radical armed group occupying a Yerevan police station for nearly two weeks. A total of 60 protesters were taken to 5 hospitals in the city; more than a hundred people were detained.

In response to our correspondent’s question as to why representatives of law enforcement agencies were allowed to enter the intensive care unit without even having to wear a protective gown or some other covering, the deputy director of the hospital, MD Gagik Manukyan insisted that they were “on duty.”

“[They are here] to enforce law and order. I’m a doctor; I’m not going to fight anyone and tell them to let us do our job,” Manukyan said.

As investigators were questioning the patients, our reporter tried to find out from them whether the injured were being questioned as victims or as witnesses. They, however, refused to answer, saying that “we are only an investigative group; you should contact the Investigative Committee.”

The Committee did subsequently issue a statement to report that 23 people, among them opposition politicians with the Heritage party Andrias Khukasyan and Armen Martirosyan, were arrested as part of an investigation under parts 1 and 2 of Article 225 of Armenia’s Criminal Code (“organization of mass disorder, accompanied with violence, pogroms, arson, destruction or damage to property, using fire-arms, explosives or explosive devices, or by armed resistance to the representative of the authorities.”)

In addition to questioning the injured, investigators were also collecting the protesters' clothes “as material evidence.” Anahit Piloyan, a 28-year-old protester with burns on her legs and arms, however, refused to give away her clothes.

“That’s because she does not trust the investigators,” her father, Samvel Piloyan, told us. He added that he had come to take his daughter home but law enforcement officers were not allowing him to.

Political forces of Armenia keep condemning last night's events, 
while Republican Party still silent
by Tatevik Shahunyan
Saturday, July 30, 21:01 

ARF Dashnaktsutyun Party strongly condemns the events in Yerevan on the night of July 29-30 that results in wounding and injuries of many activists, journalists and police officers.

The Party urges prosecution of all guilty and prevention of more violence. ARFD that is a political ally of the ruling Republican Party, says that the situation in Armenia needs drastic reform, as public is discontented at it.

At the same time, ARFD urges "Daredevils of Sasoun" that seized the police compound in Yerevan demanding resignation of the president to refuse from their unrealistic demands and refrain from radical steps. The Party urges the authorities to refrain from using force against the armed group. Unity Party of the former foreign minister of Armenia Vartan Oskanian also condemned the events of the July 29-30 night and urged the political forces, influential figures in Diaspora to unite to find a way out of the standoff. Oskanian's Party blames the authorities of Armenia for the current situation and for impoverishment of the population.

Armenian Renaissance Party led by Artur Baghdasaryan condemned the unlawful actions of the police against demonstrators. The party urged drastic reforms in the country and establishment of a special political platform to find a way out of the situation. Party is sure that the ongoing events will damage Armenia's image in the world, and urges the police to punish those guilty in yesterday's events and release prisoners. Earlier, more parties, including Prosperous Armenia, Alliance, Heritage, Free Democratic and others made condemning statements.

The Parliamentary parties of Artsakh also condemned the situation, while the ruling Republican Party keeps silent.

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