YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The chief of Yerevan’s police department was sacked on Monday for his handling of protests that broke out after the deadly attack on a police station in the Armenian capital launched by an armed opposition group.
A statement by the Armenian police linked General Ashot Karapetian’s dismissal with disciplinary action to which he and 13 other officers were subjected on Friday because of their failure to prevent violent attacks on protesters and journalists during one of those rallies.
Karapetian and his colleagues, among them three police colonels, were also formally reprimanded for what the national police chief, Vladimir Gasparian, deemed “incorrect deployment” of riot police around the police compound seized by the gunmen on July 17. Gasparian faulted them for “not blocking demonstrators’ entry into the security zone in a timely fashion.”
Scores of Armenians took to the streets to voice support for the gunmen’s demands that included President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation. Late on July 29, more than a thousand of them unexpectedly marched to Yerevan’s Sari Tagh neighborhood close to the besieged compound in the city’s Erebuni district.
Firing stun grenades and tear gas, riot police dispersed the crowd after protest leaders ignored Karapetian’s and other senior police officers’ demands to leave the “dangerous” area. At least 60 people were injured and hospitalized as a result.
As they fled the scene, many protesters and at least 14 journalists were ambushed and beaten up by a large group of men wielding sticks. None of those attackers has been identified and prosecuted so far.
Gasparian on Friday also suspended five other policemen for using excessive force against participants of the Sari Tagh protest. One of them, Colonel Lernik Yeranosian, is the brother of General Levon Yeranosian, the controversial commander of Armenian interior troops who played a key role in the Sari Tagh crackdown.
Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement body subordinate to prosecutors, is now expected to decide whether the suspended officers should face prosecution.