The gates of the Karabakh mission in Yerevan broken during a police raid, June 21, 2024

Police Raid Karabakh Leaders’ Offices

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YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Nagorno-Karabakh’s leading political groups on Monday, June 24, accused Armenia’s government of unleashing repressions and discriminating against Karabakh Armenians who took refuge in the country following Azerbaijan’s recapture of the region last September.

“For quite some time, the Armenian authorities have been targeting various groups of Artsakh citizens and individuals under the guise of democracy, applying repression and discriminatory treatment against them and using the divisive vocabulary of ‘Armenian vs. Karabakh,’” read a joint statement issued by four of the five parties represented in Karabakh’s exiled legislature.

They also condemned what they called a smear campaign against the Karabakh Armenians waged by Prime Minister’s Nikol Pashinyan’s political allies and other supporters.

The statement was prompted by Friday’s special police raid on Karabakh’s permanent representation in Yerevan during which security forces impounded a car used by Samvel Shahramanyan, the exiled president. They broke into the mission’s compound one week after Pashinyan accused unnamed Karabakh leaders of encouraging refugees to participate in anti-government protests in Yerevan and threatened them with serious consequences.

Armenia’s Investigative Committee denied any political motives behind the claims. It said Shahramanyan’s limousine was impounded as part of a continuing criminal investigation into his bodyguard and driver.

The Karabakh factions said the police actions “exposed the fact that the current authorities of Armenia have gone beyond the boundaries of both legal and moral values.” They also denounced the June 12 crackdown on demonstrators demanding Pashinyan’s resignation, saying that the authorities are ready to violate the Armenian constitution and use “disproportionate force” to cling to power.

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The authorities indicted last month the exiled mayors of Stepanakert and two other Karabakh towns who signaled support for the protest movement led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan. One of them is in jail while the other two are under house arrest on charges of fraud and forgery denied by them.

Videos posted on social media showed masked officers of a special police squad smashing the iron gates of Karabakh’s permanent representation in Yerevan to enter it and seize the limousine driven by Shahramanyan’s bodyguard.

They did not produce a court warrant, Shahramanyan’s lawyer, Roman Yeritsyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. He called the police actions illegal and politically motivated.

Armenia’s Investigative Committee denied the claims. A spokesman for the law-enforcement agency said the car was impounded as part of a continuing criminal investigation into the bodyguard and driver, Ashot Danielyan.

In February this year, Danielyan was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking and released without charge three days later. According to Yeritsyan, the car was already impounded, searched and returned to him at that time.

Investigators tried to seize it again on June 7. They gave up after a four-hour argument with Shahramanyan aides who insisted that they cannot do that without court permission. Yeritsyan said the compound was raided again on Friday as the Karabakh president was about to visit the Investigative Committee to be questioned as a witness in the case.

Topics: Politics

On June 14, Pashinyan accused unnamed Karabakh leaders of encouraging Karabakh Armenian refugees to participate in anti-government protests in Yerevan and threatened them with serious consequences. The threats came the day after Shahramanyan pushed back against Pashinyan’s allegations that Karabakh forces did not fight back last September’s Azerbaijani offensive because the authorities in Stepanakert as well as the Armenian opposition wanted the region’s population to flee to Armenia to topple him.

At least 198 soldiers and 25 civilian residents of Karabakh were killed during the 24-hour hostilities. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry acknowledged around 200 combat deaths among its military personnel involved in the operation. Baku stopped the operation and allowed the region’s entire population to flee to Armenia after Shahramanyan’s administration agreed to disband the Karabakh army.

Shahramanyan on June 13 also criticized the Armenian riot police for using “disproportionate force” against the anti-government protesters led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan. What is more, he declared that the Karabakh refugees have a “legal and moral right” to participate in peaceful demonstrations because “they are also citizens of Armenia.”

The Armenian authorities indicted last month the exiled mayors of Stepanakert and two other Karabakh towns who signaled support for Galstanyan’s protest movement. One of them is in jail while the other two are under house arrest on charges of fraud and forgery denied by them.

Yeritsyan said that the criminal cases are government retribution for Karabakh Armenians’ participation in the protests aimed at forcing Pashinyan to resign. “They are trying to tell us to know our place,” added the lawyer.

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