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“I Don’t Feel Safe in Armenia”: Journalist Spends Three Hours in Police Custody

“It was an abduction, a terrible violence. This is not only a police state, it is a fascist regime that can attack at any time, and use violence against any citizen,” journalist, social activist Gayane Arustamyan said in an interview with RFE/RL's Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) after leaving police custody on Friday, May 8.

According to the journalist, when she crossed the street across from the monument to Saryan in downtown Yerevan on Thursday, May 7, and reached the police officer standing there, the latter blew his whistle, which caught her off guard: “I jumped; naturally, I responded to the whistle and said 'Why are you whistling, ass?' Yes, I said that.”

Describing the officer's reaction, Arustamyan said that the latter came up to her, pulled her from the dress, shoved her and “delivered a speech about insulting a police officer, insubordination, disturbing public order, which, it seems, has been memorized by all law enforcement officers.”

When Arustamyan, seeing no point in continuing the conversation, tried to leave, a second officer approached her and, as stated by the journalist, began pulling and pushing: “He attacks me and starts threatening, you see? Then the rest of the officers gather, and shouting, brawl ensues. The civilians, by the way, were very indifferent.”

After a police officer threatened to arrest Arustamyan, the journalist reminded him that first the officer should present himself, and then name the grounds for the arrest. After these words, four officers attacked Arustamyan and “they wrecked me, twisted my hands, constantly hit me from behind.”

On the way to the Kentron Police Department, before Arustamyan's mobile phone was taken away from her, the journalist managed to contact Artur Sakunts, Head of Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor office, and inform him of the detention. 

The pressure by the police continued at the department, Arustamyan said: “They constantly frightened me, went in and out of the room: no legal actions.” In addition, the journalist was handcuffed during the entire period of the three-hour custody “because the key broke when applying the handcuffs.”

“I declare without hesitation, with full responsibility that it was an act of subjecting a citizen to psychological and physical abuse by a fascist regime method. Our citizens are periodically subjected to violence, and now, as a citizen of the Republic of Armenia, I do not feel safe, since there is no movement in the ranks of which I could defend my rights,” Arustamyan said.