Friday, 13 December

Yerevan: Police File Complaints Against Electricity Rate Hike Protestors and Vice-Versa

Investigations are still continuing regarding the use of force by police against protestors who demonstrated on June 23 of last year on Yerevan’s Baghramyan Avenue against electricity rate hikes.

Complaints of police manhandling filed by reporters on the scene are also stuck in the examination phase.

Surprisingly, though, complaints filed by police regarding ‘unruly’ protestors who didn’t heed their instructions on September 12 to disperse are already being heard at the administrative court.

Here are a few people who have been called to court based on police complaints:

Ernest Avanesov (“No to Plunder” initiative)

Attorney Hayarpi Sargsyan told Hetq that she is representing eight individuals in administrative court who have been singled out by police for their conduct on that day. More than twenty people have been charged with various offences on September 12 by the police. One of them is Ernest Avanesov, a member of the “No to Plunder” coordinating committee. Today was his first trial date in court. The presiding judge is Liana Hakobyan.

Judge Liana Hakobyan

Attorney Hayarpi Sargsyan says she has filed countersuits in some of the cases, including that of Ernest Avanesov, arguing that police overstepped their bounds on the day in question.

Avanesov noted that police, using force, arrested him while he was standing on the sidewalk, not in the middle of Baghramyan Avenue. He was later taken to the Kanaker-Zeytoun police station. Avanesov and attorney Sargsyan claim that during the trip to the station, the police never identified themselves by name or rank. Furthermore, they never explained why Avanesov was detained in the first place. Avanesov spent three hours at the station without a lawyer.

Attorney Hayarpi Sargsyan

Police Major Marta Meliksetyan, who works as a senior legal consultant at the Arabkir Police Division, told Hetq that the Yerevan Municipality had specified a legal route for the September 11 march and demonstration but that some participants had left the official route and did not heed police instructions. Meliksetyan says the police issued statements in advance that the actions of march participants were illegal. The police major says that marchers were even given time to disband and leave Baghramyan Avenue.

Police Major Marta Meliksetyan

Marianna Margaryan, a spokesperson for the Kanaker-Zeytoun Police Division, told Hetq that police from her unit had filed 17 complaints on the day.

If demonstrators are found to have violated the law they can be fined 50,000 AMD (US$103).

Police spokesperson Marianna Margaryan

Attorney Hayarpi Sargsyan notes that cops do not have to use force to haul off people to the nearest police station if they have committed an administrative offence. “If a policeman can sustain such an offence, it can be written up on the spot,” she says.

Artur Kocharyan, a member of the “No to Plunder” coordinating committee, against whom the police filed a complaint, believes that these administrative cases are a means for law enforcement to pressure citizens.

“If we are talking about violations, the police are violating civil order. There are videos showing how the cops seized people off the sidewalks. I regard this behavior as political persecution of citizens. It’s done so that people will fear taking to the streets to voice certain issues,” said Kocharyan.

Artur Kocharyan (“No to Plunder” initiative)

Readers will recall that on September 11, 2015 those peacefully protesting the hike in electricity rates marched towards the beginning of Baghramyan Avenue where they encountered a wall of police.

At 5 a.m. the next morning police had given the demonstrators 30 minutes to continue their rally on the adjoining sidewalks. The cops then moved in, pushing many off the avenue onto the sidewalk, and detaining others.

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