YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Five Armenian police officers were suspended on August 5 for using excessive force against participants of opposition demonstrations held late last month in support of gunmen that seized a police station in Yerevan.
The chief of the Armenian police, Vladimir Gasparian, also took disciplinary action against 14 other officers, saying that they failed to prevent violent attacks on protesters and journalists during one of those rallies.
The reprimanded officers include Ashot Karapetian, the chief of Yerevan’s police department, as well as the commander and two deputy commanders of a police regiment that was seized by the anti-government gunmen on July 17. The regiment is tasked with crowd control and street patrols.
Scores of people took to the streets to voice support for the gunmen’s demands that included President Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation. Late on July 29, more than a thousand of them unexpectedly marched to Yerevan’s Sari Tagh neighborhood close to the besieged police compound in the city’s Erebuni district. Firing stun grenades and tear gas, riot police dispersed the crowd after organizers of the protest ignored their demands to leave the “dangerous” area and go back to the city center. At least 60 people were injured and hospitalized as a result.
Armenia’s leading opposition parties as well as local and international human rights group strongly condemned that they consider the use of excessive force. The police responded by launching an “internal inquiry” into the violence. A police statement released on August 5 said that Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement body subordinate to prosecutors, will now decide whether the five suspended officers should face prosecution.
One of them, Colonel Lernik Yeranosian, is the brother of General Levon Yeranosian, the controversial commander of Armenian interior troops who played a key role in the Sari Tagh crackdown. The four others have lower ranks.