Police Accused Of Confiscating Opposition Leaflets

By Ruzanna Khachatrian

Radio Liberty, Czech Rep.
Aug 20 2007

Several opposition activists, among them a parliament deputy,
on Monday accused the Armenian police of illegally using force to
stop them distributing leaflets demanding the release of prominent
government critics.

The opposition movement Aylentrank (Alternative) said three of its
members were detained by the police late Saturday while they handed
out leaflets to participants and spectators at the official opening
of the Fourth Pan-Armenian Games. The week-long games are attended
by some 2,500 amateur athletes from Armenia and Armenian Diaspora
communities from around the world.

The Aylentrank leader, Nikol Pashinian, said the activists were
released from a police station in central Yerevan several hours later
after his personal intervention. One of them, Vardges Gasparian, told
RFE/RL that officers there counted confiscated all of the leaflets.

The Police Service refused to confirm or deny this. A spokesman said
the police are only investigating similar claims made by Zaruhi
Postanjian, a parliament deputy from the opposition Zharangutyun
(Heritage) party.

In Postanjian’s words, she and her aide Seda Melikian were jostled by
police officers as they distributed the same leaflets outside Yerevan’s
Republican Stadium, the venue of the opening ceremony attended by
President Robert Kocharian and other top government officials. She
said they then went into the stadium only to be surrounded by two
dozen police officers trying to forcibly detain them.

"We stepped aside and said we won’t follow them," Postanjian told
RFE/RL. "They were using force to take us away."

Postanjian, who is also a well-known lawyer, added that the
law-enforcement authorities wrested a bag containing leaflets and
legal documents from her hands in the process. "The bag contained
many important documents relating to my former clients," she said.

The two women visited a police station in Yerevan’s central Kentron
district later in the evening to demand that the police apologize
and return the bag. "When we demanded our package back they said it’s
gone," said Melikian, also a lawyer.

The leaflets condemned the imprisonment of four "political prisoners"
highly critical of Armenia’s leadership and urged Armenians to
campaign for their immediate release. Three of the jailed individuals
have already been controversially sentenced to between 18 months and
three-and-a-half years in prison. The fourth detainee, former Foreign
Minister Aleksandr Arzumanian, is awaiting trial on charges of being
illegally financed from abroad.

All four men have rejected the charges brought against them as
politically motivated and baseless. The authorities, however, deny
any political reasons for their high-profile prosecution.