MP Bakhshian Hospitalized After Scuffle

YEREVAN — About two dozen people, among them opposition members of Armenia’s parliament, clashed with riot police on Thursday as they protested against a controversial ban on street trade in Yerevan.
Heritage Party lawmakers Anahit Bakhshian, Zaruhi Postanjian and Armen Martirosian were caught in the middle as security personnel moved to restrict people protesting near the Armenian main government building during a weekly session of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet. Protests staged there by small groups of citizens have long been a regular occurrence.
Robert Melkonian, a controversial deputy chief of the Yerevan police specializing in crowd control, ordered his men to push the protesters away from the building, saying that gatherings held there violate Armenian law. The police met with resistance as they shoved and jostled the tiny crowd.
“Don’t you dare to touch any of these people,” screamed Zaruhi Postanjian, one of the parliament deputies from the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party attending the protest.
“Grab their hands and drop them into the cars,” Melkonian told the policemen. “Take part in parliament sessions, Madam Deputy,” he said, turning to Postanjian.
Armen Martirosian, another Zharangutyun deputy manhandled during the incident, got in a bitter shouting match with a police lieutenant-colonel as he tried unsuccessfully to prevent the arrest of an opposition activist also participating in the action.
“Don’t you see who I am? Take off your glasses and have a closer look,” yelled the officer.
The detained man, Vardges Gaspari, was released from police custody several hours later.
Anahit Bakhshian, another Zharangutyun lawmaker, felt unwell during the scuffle and was hospitalized from the scene. Fellow Heritage MP Zaruhie Postanjian reports that Bakhshian’s blood pressure is high and doctors have yet been unable to get it down to acceptable levels.
“It all started when police surrounded us in a circle and started to close in. This is when Anahit Bakhshian became ill,” MP Postanjian said.
Martirosian and Stepan Safarian, Zharangutyun’s parliamentary leader, met with Sarkisian shortly after the incident. According to Safarian, the prime minister ordered the chief of the Armenian police, Alik Sargsian, to investigate the police actions.
“We demand that the prime minister should have a criminal case brought against this pack called police. The chief of police must resign,” charged Stepan Safarian.

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