Speak the language of law

Aravot, Armenia
Feb 29 2008

Speak the language of law

by Naira Mamikonyan

Yesterday [28 February] police officers of the Malatsia -Sebastia
community [in Yerevan] entered the apartments of the two heads of
[Armenian first president Levon] Ter-Petrosyan’s election
headquarters, Armenak Karagyozyan and Gagik Eghiazaryan, and without
any explanation took them to the local police station. Later they
were released. It is noteworthy that the two were asked the same
question at the police station: what they were doing on Freedom
Square?

National Security Service makes statement

The first president’s comrade-in-arms [and editor-in-chief of
Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper] Nikol Pashinyan has called on the police
"to speak in the language of law".

Yesterday our newspaper reported that in the late night of 27
February, the people [protesters] who provided security at the rally
on Freedom Square arrested two young men who have been making calls
on the protesters to act violently against the authorities. They were
"summoned" to Levon Ter-Petrosyan. The young men admitted that they
were employees of the National Security Service [NSS] of Armenia and
were present at the square on personal orders of the head of the
National Security Service, Gorik Hakobyan. Eavesdropping devices,
audio records and some notes were found on them. The police officers
invited at the scene took the agents away.

In this connection, yesterday the NSS disseminated a curious
statement which said the participants of the "illegal" rally had
captured "two NSS officers presented by them as `provocateurs’". The
statement further read: "The National Security Service of the
Republic of Armenia, performing the responsibilities vested on it by
law on securing the constitutional order and providing safety of the
rally-goers, announces that due to the efforts of NSS officers, a
large quantity of weapons, ammunition, poisonous and explosive
substances have been recently found on extremists at the unauthorized
rallies." It also noted that the NSS acted only for the sake of
people and provision of security of the rally-goers.

We [Aravot] stress that over all this time only two "pro-extremism"
persons have been unmasked, and those appeared to be the NSS
officers. By the way, it was their behaviour that attracted attention
of the participants of the peaceful action as well as the volunteers
who provided their safety [at the rally venue].

But the most absurd is the last paragraph of the NSS statement: "We
once again assure that the NSS jointly with the police will continue
to perform their duties vested by the law, and warns some hot heads
that any attempts to prevent us from the execution of official
activities will lead to strict responsibility envisaged by the law."
And this means that "some hot heads", in this case the [NSS] agents,
will continue to call for violence at the square, and any attempt to
stop them will lead to "strict responsibility". Nikol Pashinyan
considers that "provocateurs should have made calls for overthrowing
the authorities so that [authorities] have grounds for the arrest of
opposition activists".

Acts of force against opposition

Let’s turn to the cases of rights violations and arrests which took
place in the past days. As a reminder, in the evening of 27 February
two students were taken to the police station of the capital’s
Kentron community from the territory adjacent to Freedom Square. When
MPs Zaruhi Postanjyan and Stepan Safaryan came to the police station
to learn why the young men were arrested, a group of people in plain
clothes initiated a scuffle with them, and then pushed them out of
the building with force. The same people took away a microphone from
a Radio Liberty correspondent and threw it from the window.

This is not the first time the police have committed such illegal
actions against members of National Assembly and journalists. We
recall that similar cases took place on the voting day [on 19
February] at some polling stations. Yesterday on Freedom Square
police officers tried to hamper the work of a cameraman Gagik
Shamshyan of Aravot and Chorrord Ishkhanutyun papers [affiliated to
opposition]. The person, who assaulted the media representative and
used bad language, was Lt-Col Araik Petrosyan, who is notorious for
multiple cases of using force against journalists.

We recall, it was the same Araik Petrosyan who on 23 October 2007 hit
a female journalist of Chorrord Ishkhanutyun newspaper Gohar Veziryan
reporting from the peaceful demonstration of the opposition. Prior to
this, he rudely treated A1+ correspondent Diana Markosyan. It is
noteworthy that during the rule of the incumbent authorities there
has been no punishment for a skinhead or a policeman abusing his
rights for attacking MPs and journalists.

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