At least 60 Injured After Armenian Police Attack Demonstration

YEREVAN - At least 60 people were injured late Friday night after riot police units attempted to break up a demonstration in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

Video footage of the incident appears to show several riot police units attacking a group of peaceful activists, firing tear gas and throwing stun grenades into the crowd.

The police later raided several houses and attempted to pursue demonstrators who had come from outside the city center.

Journalists were allegedly targeted by by plainclothes, pro-government gangs.

Reporters from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Armenian service were also reportedly beaten and hospitalized, after having identified themselves as journalists. RFE/RL reported that a large group of plainclothes police, armed with sticks and metal bars, were clearly aware that they were assaulting journalists

Three RFE/RL journalists - Karlen Aslanyan, Hovannes Movsisyan and Garik Harutiunyan - were attacked and beaten by the police after they retreated towards central Yerevan.

RFE/RL’s chairman Thomas Kent strongly condemned the attack on journalists, saying "Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is outraged by this attack. We expect the Armenian authorities to bring the attackers to justice and protect all journalists who are carrying out their work."

Hundreds of demonstrators were taken to police stations around the city, including several who were forcibly removed from hospitals while receiving medical assistance.

Government officials have not released any information on the number of people arrested or detained following Friday’s events.

Armenia’s human rights ombudsmen released a statement saying their office has received dozens of reports of attacks against reporters by plainclothes policemen. The statement demands that local authorities launch an immediate investigation aimed at finding those responsible for the alleged attacks.

The Council of Europe’s General-Secretary Thorbjorn Jagland expressed grave concern about the situation in Yerevan, staying the unrest must be resolved peacefully and through open dialogue.

"I call on all those concerned to immediately put an end to this dangerous situation and to return to open forms of negotiations. Democracy, human rights and the rule of law must prevail. The freedom of assembly must also be fully respected,” Jagland’s statement said.

A new round of demonstrations are planned for Saturday in Yerevan’s central Freedom Square.

The protests being more than two weeks ago after a group of militant gunmen associated with the anti-government Founding Parliament Movement seized a police station in Yerevan’s Erebuni district.

The group have demanded the immediate resignation of Armenia’s authoritarian President Serzh Sargsyan and the release of all political prisoners, including the group’s founder Zhirayr Sefilian.

By Karen Tovmasyan and Nicholas Waller

Photo: Anush Babajanyan / 4Plus

30 July 2016 21:08