YEREVAN — Armenian law-enforcement authorities arrested on Tuesday five leaders of “Founding Parliament” opposition group seeking to launch antigovernment protests on April 24 demanding regime change.
The law-enforcement bodies reported that they have conducted “operative-investigative” measures, including “searches at certain places”, in connection with threats to public order at upcoming Genocide Centennial commemoration events in Yerevan. In a statement the National Security Service and the Investigative Committee of Armenia said that “organization of mass disturbances at public places on April 24, 2015 has been thwarted as a result of their joint action.
The Founding Parliament insisted late last week, however, that its street protests will not interfere with the genocide remembrance ceremonies in any way. The group also accepted municipal authorities’ proposal to rally supporters on April 24 and April 25 in Yerevan’s southern Erebuni suburb, rather than the city center. Accordingly, the authorities sanctioned the Erebuni rallies.
The opposition movement’s top leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, and three of his close associates had their homes searched at around the same time. They were taken into custody afterwards. An RFE/RL correspondent saw Sefilian’s brother Toros also being taken away by NSS officers from the outspoken oppositionist’s Yerevan apparent.
Sefilian’s wife Nanore told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that about two dozen law-enforcement officials spent three hours looking for weapons in the apartment. She said they did not find any firearms and only confiscated a knife along with her and her husband’s and children’s computers.
Several other activists, among them the heads of Founding Parliament chapters in Gyumri, Vanadzor and Kapan, were also rounded up and questioned by the NSS. At least one of them, Karo Yeghnukian, was set free several hours later. Yeghnukian told reporters that he was asked questions about the Founding Parliament’s plans to begin nonstop anti-government rallies in Yerevan on April 24. The law-enforcement agency confirmed the fifth arrest later in the day.