Armenia detains opposition leaders as protests continue

Three opposition leaders who have played a major role in recent demonstrations in Armenia against the appointment of the former President Serzh Sargsyan as prime minister have been arrested.

Police said in a statement on Sunday that Nikol Pashinyan, the main figure behind the ongoing protests, and two other lawmakers had been “forcibly removed” from the protest.

Authorities confirmed the arrests with the public prosecution service saying the opposition leaders had been detained on suspicion of organizing an illegal protest.

Reports said almost 200 people had been taken into police custody over attending the protests that have rocked the South Caucuses nation since April 13.

Some protests have turned violent as Armenia’s Ministry of Health said in a statement that seven people had been taken to hospital. The ministry did not elaborate on the conditions of the injured.

Under Armenia’s laws, those arrested should be either released within 72 hours or be prosecuted with criminal charges. Authorities denied they have formally arrested the opposition leaders and said they were only removed from the site of the protests.

Sargsyan, who has served as president for 10 years, takes on as premier under extended authorities given to his new office under amendments made in the constitution in 2015. The former military commander was elected as prime minister by the parliament last Tuesday, a move that sparked massive protests.

Protests continued on Sunday with people marching through the capital Yerevan and blocking some roads. Officials warned protesters that an escalation could force the police to use force.

“If these demands are not fulfilled, the police has the right to take demonstrators into custody and to use force,” said an official statement on Sunday.

The arrest of Pashinyan on Sunday came hours after he met with Sargsyan to discuss a possible way out of the political crisis. The meeting was left unfinished after Sargsyan accused Pashinyan of trying to blackmail the state.

“This is not talks, not a dialogue, it’s just an ultimatum, blackmail of the state, of the legitimate authorities,” Sargsyan said after he walked out of the meeting few minutes after it started earlier on Sunday.

Pashinyan had earlier rejected any dialogue, saying the only way to end the protests on the streets was for Sargsyan to step aside as prime minister, among other conditions he imposed.

The opposition leader called on Sargsyan to try to understand the new situation of politics in Armenia, saying people would not allow him to cling to power.

“The situation in Armenia has changed, you don’t have the power of which you are told. In Armenia, the power has passed to the people,” Pashinyan said, adding, “I am telling you: you have no understanding of the situation in the country. The situation is different to the one you knew 15-20 days ago.”

source – IslamTimes

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