24/10/07 – Political prisoners are freed at 3:20am

Again via Romamerda1 we have updates from the latest developments about the arrest of Nicol Pashinyan and other members of “Impeachment” party who, as the video description says, “were unjustly imprisoned for 8 hours on 23 October in Yerevan. After the meeting with the 1st president Ter-Petrosyan, police finally freed them at 3:20am.” A large group of people was chanting “Battle,battle until the end” and applauding president Levon Ter-Petrosyans and others.
I find it VERY SIGNIFICANT to note, that the police have freed the prisoners after the meeting with the 1st president Ter-Petrosyan. I am lost, not understanding what to make of it all, and so are most of the bloggers I’m reading, who have covered the story.

Armenia 2008 Election Monitor blog covered the story at length yesterday:

RFE/RL reports that “at least a dozen” opposition activists supportive of former president Levon Ter Petrosian have been detained. Their crime? In lieu of having access to the broadcast media to advertise Friday’s rally at which Ter Petrosian is due to speak, the activists used megaphones to announce the meeting on the streets of the Armenian capital, Yerevan. One of those detained is believed to be the outspoken editor of the pro-Ter Petrosian Haykakan Zhamank newspaper, Nikol Pashinian.
Given that the capital is full of people setting up loudspeakers at kiosks or even simple tables selling CDs on street corners even though they deafen passer-bys and local residents, as well as the dozens of entertainment complexes opened by corrupt officials and their relatives in public parks, the action does not appear at first glance to warrant such a response. It is unknown so far whether the activists obstructed traffic or otherwise “disturbed the peace.”
At any rate, with Friday’s rally looming ever closer, tensions seem to be rising. In part this is because however unpopular Ter Petrosian might have been, he is seen as the lesser of two evils by a significant number of people when quizzed about their voting preference for next year’s presidential election. Quite simply, they say, anyone is better than Serzh Sarkisian.
No wonder then, that the authorities and the ruling Republican party of the prime minister, presidential hopeful Serzh Sarkisian, are taking Friday’s rally very seriously indeed. Some would argue that they’re reacting in a manner that does not befit any country supposedly on the path towards democratization.

Mark Grigoryan says the opposition has great hopes on the rally scheduled for October 26th, which is likely to become the start of Armenia’s former President Levon Ter-Petrossian’s presidential campaign. The blogger notes, that although Yerevan authorities haven’t prevented the rally, the Republican party is organizing a free concert coinciding with the opposition rally, and mentions information about preparations of police forces. “Are they really so scared of them [the opposition]?” asks Mark Grigoryan with surprise concluding his analysis of the situation.
Other reports of the story can be found on Bekaisa, Armenianewsblog, Armenian Breaking News, Narjan, really interesting eyewitness account by David_Sand with a second post, detailing his view on the developments here:

Honestly speaking, it is hard to imagine better PR for an oppositionist, than his arrest not long before a scheduled rally. I can’t find an explanation to the arrest of the editors of “Armenian Times” and the “Forth Power”. This might be a result of police stupidity or carefully prepared PR. At any rate, this is how it all looked:

– police arrest editors of opposition newspapers, calling in the street for the citizens to come to the opposition rally,

– opposition gathers at the police department (and by the way – the representatives of parliamentary minority are also there), together with human right defenders, journalists and inhabitants of houses close to the police department,

– Levon Ter-Petrosian arrives, and everybody starts shouting “Levon, Levon”, as if the savior has come and brought the key to all problems of opposition,

– in a couple of hours the arrested are set free, which in the eyes of the public raises the authority of Ter-Petrosian.

The blogger also notes, that TV has ceased to serve as a source of information – because from his observations, there was no coverage of the events in the TV news reports. I can state that there was pretty good coverage on Yerkir Media TV – but that is the exception, proving the point made by David_Sand.

One of my absolute favorite bloggers, Pigh – is scandalous and against Levon Ter-Petrosian as ever:

Everything, everything, everything is done to make sure they have stuff to talk about at the rally… tomorrow, perhaps they’ll get somebodies head broken, and everything is to make sure there is a fresh topic to discuss…


There is an impression, that Levon has lot’s of support among oligarchs, although, if you look at it soberly, why not? Grzo, Lfik, Tsarukyan were all the creations of Vanik Smbatovich… (former Minister of Internal Affairs during LTP rule).

Very interestingly Pigh connects the recent price rises of sugar, which drew considerable public discontent with the current authorities, with the coming of LTP and the wish of oligarchs, supportive of the ex-president, to help him, by irritating the public with sudden price hikes on the eve of the presidential elections.

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. Talking of conspiracy theories and paranoia about who or what is behind Levon Ter Petrosian:

    US Congress will not adopt the Armenian Genocide Resolution until Levon Ter-Petrosyan becomes president of Armenia. The Americans are going to bring RA first president to power via an “orange revolution”, a top-ranking American diplomat told the Day.az. According to the source, “adoption of the Resolution by the USA Congress’s Foreign Affairs Committee, which recognizes the fact of the Armenian people genocide by the Ottoman Turkey, is part of a large-scale game of the Americans on increase of the own popularity among this country’s population on the eve of revolutionary changes in it”.
    “We placed a stack on Armenia’s ex-President Levon Ter-Petrosyan at the forthcoming presidential election in Armenia. As you have noticed, the US Congress’s Foreign Affairs Committee adopted the Armenian Genocide Resolution just this year, after it became clear that L. Ter-Petrosyan agreed to be nominated for RA president’s post. This is not surprising. This was a kind of advance, a PR-step, organized by the American congressmen jointly with the USA Armenian lobby”, the source noted and added that, by such steps, the USA intend to finally displace Russia from the South Caucasus region.

    I still can’t get over how paranoid Armenians are. Anyway, I would treat any rumor or opinion with some caution and actually, a pinch of salt. I mean, for those in opposition who dislike LTP, are they suggesting that now Pashinian, Demirchian and Aram Sarkisyan are working with the authorities?
    Moreover, as they also dislike the second most obvious joint opposition candidate, Artur Baghdasarian, and accuse him of working with the government and being part of the system, perhaps we should just scrap elections and be done with it. Of course, there is a new and very unique (for Armenia) approach we could all follow.
    For once, we could all start talking about issues.

  2. The most interesting conspiracy theory I read today – was on Day.az – I’ve posted it on my journal at http://angry-root.livejournal.com/39311.html . It basically says, Azeris should support the “terrorists”: Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharian, because LTP is the US sponsored candidate, and if he becomes president, he, like Saakashvili in Georgia, will become ‘their” guy, and then the Kharabakh conflict will be settled for the benefit of Armenia.
    Now THAT’s paranoia!!! :)))))))))))))))))))

  3. RFE/RL’s Press Review quotes a pro-HHSh newspaper has having another “theory” about price raises. No evidence to back it up, but it sounds more probable than Pigh’s.

    In a separate story, “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” claims that the latest surge in prices of key food prices was orchestrated by the Armenian government. “The calculation is very simple: Serzh Sarkisian is going to need money in the elections, lost of money,” says the paper. “But price hikes one month before the elections will not be looked upon kindly. That is why it was decided to start the plunder now and make some things a little cheaper one month before the elections.”

  4. my theory is quite the opposite of that – I am sure, that LTP has pushed the oligarchs who support him (publicly or secretly), to engeneer price rises, especially at times when Serzh Sargsyan is away, so the public discontent with him grows.
    I am sure, that someone like Serzh Sargsyan, who obviously knows very well the value of public support and is trying to win the elections more or less democratically, would never allow or encourage price rises. Moreover, I am quite sure, that the price rises are only good/useful at this point for LTP.

  5. On the other hand, Serzh has been quite prolific in allowing problems to emerge then stepping in to resolve them. Anyway, the fact is that Serzh might be away, but Kocharian is still able to control. Of course, that leads us to a whole range of other conspiracy theories 😉

  6. You know, it amazes me how politics in Armenia works. Basically, few people here can be neutral and how events are interpreted is based on whether you are for or against a candidate or party and has nothing to do with the law, democracy, or standing up for the rights of anyone whether in opposition or government.
    So, even opposition supporters who dislike Ter Petrosian will try to discredit him just as they did with Baghdasarian rather than argue valid political points. Certainly, I have no reason to believe that Pashinian, Sarkisian, Demirchian and Ter Petrosian are in league with Lfik Samo, for example. However, it’s interesting to note that others will try to do so in order to discredit them because they want someone else to be the main opposition for the election.
    The same is true for how people are reporting or gossiping about this incident. Meanwhile, RFE/RL has a more comprehensive report and this struck me in particular.
    RFE/RL have more details on the incident:

    […] They were taken into custody after a scuffle with security forces led by Colonel Aleksandr Afian, deputy chief of the Yerevan police.
    Eyewitnesses said the violence broke out after Afian demanded that Aylentrank leader Nikol Pashinian hand him a megaphone used during the march. Pashinian, who is also the editor of Armenia’s best-selling daily newspaper, refused to obey the order, they said.
    “We told Afian that his actions are illegal,” Tigran, a young member of the radical opposition Hanrapetutyun party also detained on the spot, told RFE/RL. “He said, ‘I am the law and you must do whatever I want.’ Then he called up [special police wearing] red berets and they attacked and arrested us.”
    The police blamed the incident on the demonstrators, accusing them of disrupting public order. Colonel Nerses Nazarian, the Yerevan police chief said they interfered with traffic and littered streets and building entrances with leaflets advertising the Ter-Petrosian rally.
    “People were complaining from their balconies that it is inadmissible to toss those papers,” Nazarian told a news conference. “That also got us worried and we repeatedly warned [the demonstrators.]”
    Pashinian and his allies dismissed the official version of events, saying that their street march did not violate Armenia’s law on public gatherings and was not banned by the Yerevan municipality. They accused security forces of violating their civil rights and demanded criminal proceedings against Afian. “Sashik Afian behaved like a street criminal,” charged Pashinian.
    The Kentron police headquarters was earlier visited by three parliamentarians representing the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party as well as Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Armen Harutiunian. According to one of the parliament deputies, Zaruhi Postanjian, some of the detainees looked injured. But Harutiunian said he found no traces of violence on their faces and saw “beaten police officers” instead.
    Ter-Petrosian’s political allies say the authorities are increasingly worried about his political comeback and are doing everything to disrupt his rally. They point to the refusal by virtually all Armenian TV stations to air paid adverts notifying citizens about the upcoming rally. Mikael Hayrapetian, another Aylentrank leader, alleged that the authorities provoked Tuesday’s violent incident in order to “stem a big tide that could rise on October 26.”
    Such claims were effectively endorsed by Zharangutyun, one of the two opposition parties represented in Armenia’s parliament. In a written statement, the party led by former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian expressed serious concern at the “growing wave of repressions” in the country. It said the authorities have grown “panicky over possible internal political developments” and are trying to intimidate their political opponents.

    Now perhaps those against LTP in the anti-government camp will suggest that Heritage are working with Impeachment to… to do what? To help Serzh? To help the oligarchs? What exactly is this? Why do many Armenians think in such simplistic political terms? It’s just one reason why the media here, and now blogs, cannot be relied upon for news and information that can illuminate a situation, in my opinion.
    Now, if you’re against LTP why not argue the points that can truly be made. Writing for Armenia Now, Vahan Ishkhanyan makes some very valid points against LTP and ones that can be grounds for food for thought. Sure, it’s anti-Pashinian and anti-HHSh, but the points are valid. Just my opinion, but those against LTP might be better makin arguments like this rather than coming up with fantastic allegations with no evidence to back them up.
    Vahan Ishkhanyan’s piece, which I do recommend you all to read, ishere
    Regardless, although I think that most opposition parties as well as the most prominent civil society groups support Ter Petrosian as the candidate with the best chance to win against Serzh, it is interesting to note that there is a risk for those opposed to the government to fall into the same trap as before. That is, they will spend as much time attempting to discredit rivals or candidates/parties in the opposition they don’t like as they will against the government.
    Now, that is what the authorities are counting on although I sense that there is more support for LTP in opposition and civil society circles than against. On Friday we’ll know for sure.

  7. BtW – the Public TV covered the story about opposition – I think half of the prime time news cast was dedicated to the arrest.
    However – the quality of coverage was horrible! We got to only hear the position of police. No word about the fact, that the detainees had been set free after LTP’s arrival – in fact there was no word about LTP at all. The point of view of the police was presented at length, but no single word from Nikol or Shogher. The journalist mentioned a question by the reporter of “Haykakan Zhamanak” and showed the picture of the journalist asking a question, with voice over – bringing her comment, so you couldn’t hear at all what the “Haykakan Zhamanak” journalist was saying. I mean – that is what I call unethical journalism.
    No journalism professional should allow something like that to be broadcast. The journalist, who as far as I remember, was Zarouhi Arzumanyan, could have at least lied, that they tried to contact opposition but they refused to comment or something like that. If the Haylur editorial policy was not to allow opposition to speek, they should at least have tried to pretend to be objective. Otherwise, it was just the journalist speaking, avoiding any sharp angles of the story, and then the words of the Police representatives, occusing oppositionists of violating law, provoking the police, etc.
    There was a second story that followed, this time by Tatevik Nalbandyan, which showed parliamentarians condemning the oppositionists for misbehaviour, then Ararat Mahtesyan, Deputy Chief of the Police, saying that the opposition should know, that everybody is equal before the law, and saying the bad words Shogher was saying to the police “are not appropriate for an Armenian woman”.

  8. Sksela. 😉
    I mean, it’s started — the government trying to scare off people from tomorrow’s rally and attempts to discredit the organizers. Still, given that Pashinian when he loses his temper can create a clash with police, they might have a point — well, partly at least.
    Of course, those against the government, and even those in opposition against LTP, will see this all as some great elaborate scheme masterminded by the Oligarchs/Serzh/Kocharian/Daffy Duck/delete where appropriate rather than what it appears to be.
    Go figure. No wonder the public are sick and tired of it all, but let’s face a reality here. The opposition fighting among themselves are as much a reason as the government.

  9. […] movement and editor of Haykakan Zhamanak daily,  has been involved in rallies as in cases reported here and […]

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