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‘Dozens’ Detained in Yerevan and Gyumri During Pope’s Visit

About two dozen members of Founding Parliament anti-government movement were subjected to violence and forcibly detained on June 25 for planning to organize a flash mob in support of 14 Armenian political prisoners in Yerevan's central Republic Square where Pope Francis was to hold a prayer service during his three-day visit to Armenia, according to a media statement issued by the opposition group. 

The Police, having learned about the movement's intention, waited at the entrance to the Founding Parliament's office and detained all those who came out of the building, the group said. “The Police, placing themselves outside the law and acting under the pretext of ensuring public safety during the Pope's visit, massively violated the right to freedom of movement of hundreds of people.”

Founding Parliament added that they considered the police actions a criminal offence and stressed that the participants of the potential flash mob had been “persecuted for political reasons.”

The Police, for their part, issued a statement to say that six members of Founding Parliament had been detained “for planning to organize and conduct an illegal assembly.”

Recall that on the same day, Police in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri detained the teenage son of Armenian oppositionist and political prisoner Shant Harutyunyan, Shahen Harutyunyan, for allegedly hiding a suspicious item under his clothing and refusing to stay at a “reasonable distance” from the city's Vardanants square where Pope Francis was to hold an open-air mass.

Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor Office, however, claimed in a statement that Harutyunyan had been kidnapped and that “the Police, putting themselves above the law, acted as an organized criminal group and kidnapped an Armenian citizen, preventing him from exercising his right to freedom of expression.”