Armenian police raid opposition parties offices

Armenian police raid opposition parties offices
(Recasts, updates with police closing parties’ headquarters)

By Hasmik Lazarian
13 Apr 2004 14:25:16 GMT

YEREVAN, April 13 (Reuters) – Police raided the offices of Armenia’s
opposition on Tuesday after ending a week of protests which activists
had hoped would turn into a Georgia-style “rose revolution” against
President Robert Kocharyan.

Police finally moved against a rally in the centre of Yerevan on
Monday night, accusing protesters of throwing stones and petrol
bombs. The opposition, which accuses Kocharyan of rigging his
re-election last year, denied the allegation.

“It’s an absolute lie,” opposition leader Stepan Demirchyan, second to
Kocharyan in last year’s poll, told reporters. “People were peaceful
— singing, dancing and waiting for Kocharyan’s resignation.”

Police said they had made arrests and several people had been hurt.
Opposition newspaper Aravot said they had used tear gas and water
cannons to break up the demonstration, the latest in a series of
protests launched last week. The rallies were the biggest in the
ex-Soviet state since the presidential election.

“After the police broke up the rally, many of the participants took
refuge in the party office,” said Iveta Sarksyan, an official of
Demirchyan’s Justice Party.

“Police forced their way in and took away the protesters. They later
broke the doors to the party press office. Now they’re all in the
police station.”

Police also broke down the door of the office of a second opposition
party, National Unity and blocked access to a third, the Republic

A poor landlocked state of 3.8 million people, Armenia is key to
unravelling the deadlock over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of
Azerbaijan taken over by its mainly Armenian population in 1988. Some
35,000 died in six years of fighting.

A ceasefire ended the violence in 1994, but the unresolved dispute
between Armenia oil-rich Azerbaijan has added risk to Western energy
firms’ investments in the region.


Protesters on Monday had intended marching down the capital’s main
thoroughfare towards the presidential office.

Opposition activists demand Kocharyan’s resignation and had pledged
protests throughout this week. They also want to change a law on
referendums to hold a confidence vote in Kocharyan.

Kocharyan has accused his rivals of trying to stage a repeat of last
year’s “rose revolution” in neighbouring Georgia.

Last November, protesters rebelled against veteran Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze, accusing him of rigging a parliamentary
election. In less than two weeks the campaign, supported by the West,
toppled Shevardnadze.

Kocharyan had run Nagorno-Karabakh and became Armenian president in
1998 on a wave of personal popularity.

But he has made little progress in solving the conflict. Nor have the
lives of impoverished Armenians improved.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS