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ARMENIA - JULY 2016
Yerevan hostage stand-off enters into third day
10:42 • 19.07.16





The armed opposition group which seized the patrol police regiment headquarters in Yerevan on Sunday continues keeping the building under control, holding four high-ranking police officers hostage under the threat of violence.

The group demands the release of Zhirayr Sefilyan, a civic activist who was detained in June over illegal possession and transportation weapons.

In a statement on Monday, the National Security Service (NSS) said that the police officers “detained illegally are facing threats to life and health.” It also warned of possible hazards to the society.

In an official press release issued later, the NSS said that the individuals on the territory of the headquarters had been supplied with food, as well as the necessary medicines.

The regiment’s deputy commander, Colonel Artur Vanoyan, was killed in clashes with the armed group on Sunday. Three more policemen - Colonel Aram Hovhanissyan, Lieutenant Colonel Hrach Khosteghyan and a non-commissioned officer, Gagik Mkrtchyan, - were injured.

Hovhannisyan, who was wounded in the abdomen, underwent a surgery on Monday evening, He is now said to be under postoperative care.

Tatul Tamrazyan, a group member who was also hospitalized in the wake of the clashes, is reported to be “in a stable but grave condition after several surgeries”.

In a statement issued after modnight, the Armenian Police warned the population against organizing public marches to the police building which is now under special protection.
Armenian News - Tert.a
Funeral date for killed Armenian police colonel announced
17:17 • 19.07.16





Civil funeral rites for Artur Vanoyan, the Armenian police colonel killed in the recent clashes at a seized police station in Yerevan, will be held in his apartment in Abovyan (Kotayk region) on Tuesday evening.

The police officer will be laid to rest in the city’s cemetery on Wednesday, July 20, sources from the Public Relations Department of the Police told Tert.am.

Vanoyan served in the police system since 1995. He was married and had three children, and grandchildren.

Two other police officers were injured severely in the clashes after the armed radical opposition group representing the Pre-Parliament movement burst into the headquarters of the patrol police regiment (Yerevan’s Erebuni administrative district) on Sunday morning. The group is still keeping four high-ranking police officers (including Colonel Valery Osipyan, the deputy chief of the Yerevan Police, and Lieutenant-General Vardan Yeghiazaryan, a deputy chief of the Armenian Police) hostage under the threat of violence. 

Government ‘Offer’ Made To Armenian Hostage Takers


Armenia - Police officers sleep on the ground on a blocked street in Yerevan leading to a police station seized by anti-government gunmen, 19Jul2016.

The Armenian government has made a new proposal to gunmen holding four police officers hostage at a police station in Yerevan, a member of their radical opposition group said on Tuesday.

Alek Yenigomshian said he has been acting as a go-between in negotiations held the National Security Service (NSS) and the armed members of the Founding Parliament movement that seized the building on Sunday, killing one senior police officer, wounding several others and taking the hostages.

The gunmen’s main demand is the release of Zhirayr Sefilian, the Founding Parliament leader who was arrested last month for allegedly plotting an armed revolt. As of Tuesday evening, security forces refrained from storming the seized police premises in Yerevan’s southern Erebuni district.

“Those negotiations continued yesterday and the National Security Service (NSS) submitted a demand-proposal to the ‘Sasna Tsrer’ armed group,” Yenighomshian told reporters.

Armenia -- A member of the Founding Parliament movement, Alek Enigomshian, speaks to journalists in Yerevan, 19Jul2016


“Yesterady I met with NSS officials, Zhirayr Sefilian [in prison] and members of ‘Sasna Tsrer’ group,” he said. “I gave them the NSS’s demand-proposals, details of which I won’t publicize for now. Those guys said they will respond to it tonight at 7 p.m.”

Both the NSS and the Armenian police have branded the attackers as “terrorists” and demanded their unconditional surrender.

Yenigomshian said that although the gunmen’s mobile phones were no longer reachable on Tuesday morning he received assurances from the NSS that the talks with them will continue. “I’m very happy with that,” he said, speaking on a blocked street leading to the seized police compound.

In a statement issued at 5 p.m., the NSS said law-enforcement officials are continuing “intensive negotiations” with the gunmen in an effort to ensure their surrender and the liberation of the hostages. “Armenian law-enforcement bodies are doing everything to hold the armed group back from further bloodshed,” it said.
Armenian Ombudsman Deplores Protesters’ Arrests
Armenia’s human rights ombudsman on Tuesday criticized police for detaining opposition activists and apparently ill-treating some of them during Monday’s demonstrations held in support of gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan.

Several activists were detained after calling on protesters rallying in the city’s Liberty Square to march to the seized building. Two of them, Andranik Aslanian and Davit Sanasarian, claimed to have been beaten up inside a police vehicle that drove them to interior troop headquarters in Yerevan. They underwent a medical examination in a hospital after being set free a couple of hours later.

Sanasarian, who is an opposition member of Yerevan’s municipal assembly, was diagnosed with concussion. “They hit me in the head for 15 or so times,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Aslanian showed an RFE/RL correspondent a cut on his forehead and numerous bruises on his face and back. “They repeatedly hit and swore at us in the vehicle,” he said.

The ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, said he has asked Armenia’s Special Investigative Service to investigate the police actions. “This is unacceptable,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

In a statement released later in the day, Tatoyan’s office said some of the incidents “contained clear elements of crime” and urged the police to respect Armenians’ freedom of assembly. It also said protesters must ensure that their actions are peaceful.

A police spokesman, Ashot Aharonian, denied that the detained activists were ill-treated in police custody. He said at the same time that an “internal inquiry” has been launched into the alleged abuses.

The police have detained at least 100 opposition activists and supporters since armed members of the Founding Parliament opposition movement seized a police station in Yerevan on Sunday. All of them have been set free after spending several hours in police custody. Human rights groups have condemned the mass detentions as illegal.
Police Halt March To Seized Office In Yerevan
Riot police stopped more than 100 people from marching to a police station in Yerevan on Monday evening in support of armed opposition activists that have seized it to demand the release of their jailed leader.

The small crowd gathered in the city’s Liberty Square amid a continuing standoff between security forces and the gunmen holding four police officers hostage at the police compound in the southern Erebuni suburb since Sunday morning.

Davit Sanasarian, a well-known opposition activist, and several other young men were detained on the spot moments after urging the protesters to march to Erebuni. The protesters tried to do so even after the detentions but were stopped by riot police just outside the square.

General Hunan Poghosian, the first deputy chief of the Armenian police, arrived at the scene to urge the crowd to avoid “imprudent” actions. “Please do not create unnecessary tension,” he said.



Poghosian argued that security forces are continuing to negotiate with the dozen or so members of the radical opposition group Founding Parliament to try to resolve the hostage crisis.

He assured the protesters that the Armenian authorities have no plans to use force against the hostage takers. The latter are demanding that the authorities release Zhirayr Sefilian, the Founding Parliament leader arrested last month on charges of illegal arms possession. They also want President Serzh Sarkisian to resign.

The protesters reluctantly agreed to walk back into the square moments later. Tension eased further after Poghosian ordered his officers to immediately release two of the detained activists. He said all other individuals taken into police custody will be set free later in the evening.

More than a dozen other people were detained early in the afternoon when they tried to demonstrate near the seized Erebuni compound cordoned off by security forces. An RFE/RL reporter was hit by a policeman in the chest while covering the proceedings.

The police allowed the evening march from Liberty Square only after other activists promised to confine it to downtown Yerevan and steer clear of Erebuni.

“They are not terrorists,” one of those activists, Maxim Sargsian, said of the Founding Parliament gunmen that killed one police officer and wounded four others during Sunday’s attack.

“The authorities must understand that they forced those people to take such a step,” Sargsian told the crowd before it marched through the city center, chanting “Freedom!”

Sargsian and Avetik Ishkanian, a prominent human rights activist who also addressed the protesters, demanded that law-enforcement authorities avoid forcibly retaking the seized police building and freeing the hostages.



Ishkhanian also condemned as illegal the brief detentions of more than 100 members and supporters of Founding Parliament carried out on Monday and Sunday.

Several dozen protesters, most of them young men, managed to reach the cordoned area in Erebuni at around midnight. They chanted “Sefilian!” as they approached a row of policemen in full riot gear. The commander of Armenian interior troops, General Levon Yeranosian, and other senior security officials could be seen standing behind the policemen.

The protesters did not attempt to break through the police cordon.
3 Hostages Freed In Armenian Police Station Standoff

Anti-government gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan released three hostages on Monday on the second day of their standoff with Armenian security forces.

Armenia’s police and National Security Service (NSS) said one of the freed individuals is a police officer while the other an ambulance driver. Their release was the result of continuing negotiations, said the two law-enforcement agencies.

General Hunan Poghosian, the first deputy chief of the national police, told reporters that five other policemen are still being held hostage inside the building that was seized on Sunday morning by a dozen or so armed men affiliated with a radical opposition group.

Another policeman was set free later in the day, according to the NSS. The latter also said that the hostage takers and the officers held by them have been provided with food and medication.

Among the remaining hostages were General Vartan Yeghiazarian, another deputy police chief, and Colonel Valeri Osipian, a deputy head of Yerevan’s police department. Another police colonel, Artur Vanoyan, was killed when the gunmen stormed the police compound located in the city’s southern Erebuni district.

The hostage takers are demanding the release of Zhirayr Sefilian, the leader of their Founding Parliament opposition movement arrested last month for allegedly plotting an armed revolt. They also want President Serzh Sarkisian to step down.

Poghosian again rejected those demands. He reiterated police calls for the attackers to free the remaining hostages and give themselves up. Law-enforcement bodies are legally empowered to use force against them, he warned.

Armenia - General Hunan Poghosian, the first deputy chief of the Armenian police, speaks to reporters near a police building in Yerevan seized by anti-government gunmen, 18Jul2016.
Armenia - General Hunan Poghosian, the first deputy chief of the Armenian police, speaks to reporters near a police building in Yerevan seized by anti-government gunmen, 18Jul2016.

The NSS echoed that warning in stronger terms, branding the attackers “terrorists” that “pose a threat to not only the hostages but also the public.”

It said that despite the release of the three hostages it cannot exclude a “tragic” end to the crisis.

“The terrorists must realize that they have no alternative to unconditionally fulfilling the authorities’ demands as soon as possible,” the powerful security service said in a statement. “Armenian law-enforcement bodies still hope that the members of the armed group will only be guided by prudence when making decisions.”

The NSS and the police continued to cordon off the area and block Erebuni roads leading to it. Scores of police officers, interior troops and NSS personnel remained deployed there as of Monday afternoon.

Varuzhan Avetisian, one of the leaders of the gunmen, told Aravot.am by phone that they freed the two hostages at Sefilian’s request which he said was communicated to them by another Founding Parliament member allowed to visit them.

Avetisian claimed that Sefilian also proposed a compromise solution to the hostage crisis. “I can’t publicize it,” he said. “Negotiations, discussions are underway, let’s see what happens.”

Poghosian declined to confirm Sefilian’s involvement in the negotiations. But he did say that the Armenian authorities are ready to reciprocate “adequate steps” by the hostage takers.

Sefilian was arrested on June 20 less than two weeks after announcing plans to set up a new opposition movement that would strive topple the government “with the help of the people and the army.”

Armenia - Zhirayr Sefilian (L) and another arrested leader of the Founding Parliament movement are taken to the Investigative Committee for further questioning, Yerevan, 9Apr2015.
Armenia - Zhirayr Sefilian (L) and another arrested leader of the Founding Parliament movement are taken to the Investigative Committee for further questioning, Yerevan, 9Apr2015.

According to Armenia’ Investigative Committee, Sefilian and six other men arrested last month acquired large amounts of weapons with the aim of seizing government buildings and a television tower in Yerevan. Sefilian and Founding Parliament deny the charges, saying that he is prosecuted only because of his strong opposition to Armenian territorial concessions to Azerbaijan allegedly planned by Sarkisian.

Founding Parliament tried unsuccessfully to achieve regime change through peaceful rallies last December after teaming up with several other small opposition groups. Their alliance called the New Armenia Public Salvation Front attracted only several hundred people to those protests.

A hardline nationalist born and raised in Lebanon, Sefilian was a prominent field commander during the 1991-1994 war in Karabakh. He has campaigned against both Sarkisian and former President Robert Kocharian over the past decade.

In 2006, Sefilian was arrested and subsequently sentenced to 18 months in prison for allegedly attempting to mount an armed uprising against the Kocharian government. He denied the accusations as politically motivated.

The 48-year-old was again detained and spent a month in jail last year ahead of a series of anti-government protests planned by Founding Parliament during official ceremonies to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey. Sefilian’s group had urged Armenians to use the genocide centennial to bring down the Sarkisian government.
Radical Opposition Group Seizes Police Building In Armenia
One police officer was killed and two others wounded early on Sunday when members of an Armenian radical opposition group seized a police station in Yerevan, demanding the release of its leader arrested last month for allegedly plotting an armed revolt.

Varuzhan Avetisian, one of the members of the Founding Parliament movement that stormed the police building in Yerevan’s southern Erebuni district, said the “rebellion” is also aimed at forcing President Serzh Sarkisian to step down.

Avetisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that several law-enforcement officers and Founding Parliament members were wounded when police tried unsuccessfully to retake control of the building.

Residents of nearby apartment buildings said they heard several explosions in the early hours of the morning. “There were also many gunshots afterwards,” one of them said.


The Armenian police and other security services cordoned off the area later in the morning. The National Security Service (NSS) said the attackers are holding hostage police personnel inside the building.

“Negotiations are being conducted with the armed individuals with the aim of organizing their surrender to the Armenian authorities,” the NSS said in a statement.

Another NSS statement released later in the day said one police officer was killed and two others wounded in the attack. “Armenian law-enforcement bodies fully control the situation and are taking all necessary measures to resolve it,” it said.

Founding Parliament’s Avetisian blamed the police for the bloodshed. In a Facebook post, he said the “rebels” fought back in “self-defense” when security forces attempted to retake the building.

Nikol Pashinian, an Armenian mainstream opposition leader, visited the Erebuni police station and spoke with Avetisian and other armed men. He told reporters afterwards that he saw about 25 people inside the building and that 8 of them were police officers. Among them, he said, were a deputy head of the national police , Vartan Yeghiazarian, and Yerevan’s deputy police chief, Valeri Osipian.

Pashinian suggested that Yeghiazarian and Osipian arrived at the scene to negotiate with the attackers. He also said that one of the police hostages was freed after his health condition deteriorated.

Zhirayr Sefilian, Founding Parliament’s top leader, was taken into custody on June 20 after allegedly acquiring large quantities of weapons and forming an armed group to seize government buildings in Yerevan. Law-enforcement authorities also announced the arrest of six other individuals.

Sefilian was afterwards formally charged with only illegal acquisition and possession of weapons and ammunition. The outspoken oppositionist and his associates strongly deny the charges as politically motivated.

Founding Parliament has repeatedly demanded its leader’s release, saying that he is prosecuted because he planned to thwart Armenian territorial concessions which President Sarkisian allegedly plans to make to Azerbaijan.

Late last year, Founding Parliament teamed up with several other small opposition groups to try to force Sarkisian to resign with a series of anti-government rallies in Yerevan. The campaign fizzled out due to poor attendance of those rallies.

Early this year Sefilian’s group tried in vain to make another push for regime change. It again failed to win over mainstream opposition parties represented in Armenia’s parliament.

Less than two weeks before his arrest, Sefilian announced plans to set up a new opposition movement called the National Resistance Committee. The Lebanese-born oppositionist said it will try to topple the government “with the help of the people and the army.”
Pashinian Seeks Crisis Talks With Jailed Oppositionist
Nikol Pashinian, a prominent Armenian opposition parliamentarian, demanded that law-enforcement authorities allow him to meet the jailed leader of a radical opposition group whose armed members continued to occupy a police building in Yerevan early on Monday.

Pashinian said he tried to visit Zhirayr Sefilian in prison hours after gunmen affiliated with the latter’s Founding Parliament movement seized the building early on Sunday, killing one police officer and taking several others hostage. He said he believes a meeting with Sefilian could help to end the continuing hostage crisis.

“I was thinking about possible ways out of this deadlock,” Pashinian explained to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview. “That is why I decided to meet with Zhirayr Sefilian. But the penitentiary agency [of the Armenian Justice Ministry] illegally refused to let me meet him.”

Pashinian said that he will keep trying to receive permission to visit a Yerevan prison where Sefilian is being kept pending trial on charges of illegal arms possession. “We must do everything to prevent further bloodshed because the situation is in deadlock and can get out of hand at any moment,” he said.

Pashinian was allowed by security forces to visit the police compound in the city’s Erebuni district shortly after it was seized by Sefilian’s armed associates. The gunmen allowed him to film inside the compound with his mobile phone.

The 13-minute footage posted by Pashinian on the Internet shows gun-toting members of Founding Parliament demanding Sefilian’s release and President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation. They are also shown talking to two of at least six police hostages held by them: deputy chiefs of the national police and Yerevan’s police department.

“They told me that they are not going to surrender and will put up resistance if the police attack them,” said Pashinian.

In separate statements issued on Sunday evening, Pashinian’s Civic Contract and other mainstream opposition parties represented in the Armenian parliament urged the authorities not to end the hostage crisis by force and continue to seek a negotiated solution. One of them, Prosperous Armenia, called for a “dialogue” between the authorities and the hostage takers.

Pavel Manukian, a Founding Parliament activist leading the gunmen, told Armlur.am that the authorities allowed Sefilian to talk to him by phone. “Zhirayr Sefilian was completely unaware of what happened [at the Erebuni police building,]” Manukian said. “I informed him about the situation but he was in the dark. That is why he said, ‘You decide [what to do next.]”

“We’re going to fight till the end,” added Manukian.

The police rounded up and detained dozens of people, among them Founding Parliament members or supporters, after the gunmen urged Armenians to join their “rebellion.” Many of them were taken to the Yerevan headquarters of Armenian interior troops on Sunday night. About 50 detainees were set free shortly after midnight.

On Sunday afternoon, an RFE/RL correspondent saw a police officer telling a group of women in Yerevan’s Liberty Square to get in a police van. “We want to check your identity,” said the officer.

The women refused. “Give me a written invitation,” said one of them.

The police made dozens of arrests at the square in the evening. Among those taken into custody were three well-known opposition figures sympathetic to Founding Parliament. It was not clear whether they planned to hold a rally there.

At least two dozen other people were detained in Gyumri and Vanadzor. They included Levon Barseghian, a prominent Gyumri-based civic activist. Barseghian was freed several hours after the police stopped and searched his car on a highway outside the city.