YEREVAN — Member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) Samson Khachatrian was arrested on Sunday on charges of assaulting police officers which he and Armenia’s largest opposition force condemned as politically motivated.
The Yerevan police said Khachatrian, a prominent former boxer, used force against law-enforcement officers during a rally held by the Armenian National Congress on March 1.
According to Khachatrian’s family and lawyer, the ANC member, who was a renowned Soviet boxer in the 1970s and 1980s, only tried to stop plainclothes men from beating young women present at the rally.
“My father said, ‘Stop it, you must not hit the girls,’” Khachatrian’s son Sarkis told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “But they said, ‘Who do you think you are? We’ll smash your head.’ They then started shoving my father.’”
“They didn’t even say that they are policemen,” claimed Sarkis Khachatrian.
The ANC was quick to condemn the arrest, alleging political motives behind the case and demanding Khachatrian’s immediate release. In a statement, the opposition alliance said the activist was jailed as part of frantic government efforts to minimize attendance at its next rally scheduled for Thursday.
The Armenian National Congress also said the arrest was triggered by Khachatrian’s harsh criticism of the Armenian authorities which he voiced in an interview with the pro-opposition daily “Chorrord Inknishkhanutyun” published on Saturday. “The regime got worried about the impact of the world-famous athlete’s words, and they decided to neutralize it in this way,” it said.
Khachatrian’s lawyer, Ara Zakarian, also saw a link between the criminal case and the newspaper interview. “If such an incident indeed took place [on March 1,] why didn’t they arrest him on the spot or the next day?” argued Zakarian.

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