YEREVAN — Armenian authorities launched a criminal investigation Friday into police officers involved in a brutal crackdown on demonstrators protesting against electricity price hikes.

The spokesman for Armenia’s Special Investigation Service said on July 3 the inquiry had been opened into alleged police violence, abuse of power, and obstructing journalists.

If found guilty, officers could face up to six years in prison.

Central Yerevan has been rattled by two weeks of protests over plans to increase electricity prices by 16 percent from August.

On June 23, hundreds of riot police moved in against protesters using batons and water cannons.

According to investigators, after studying evidence, including videotapes of the clashes, police officers exceeded their powers, used violence against demonstrators and journalists, and “inflicted significant damage on the legitimate interests of society and the state.” Police also destroyed or confiscated journalists equipment, sparking international condemnation.

In an earlier concession to the protesters, President Serzh Sarkisian announced last week that the government would temporarily “bear the burden” of the higher prices pending an audit of Armenia’s power distribution company.

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