The mothers of several soldiers who died in the Armenian army in non-combat incidents met on Friday evening with Yerevan police chief Sargis Martirosyan and the chief of staff of the national police Meruzhan Hakobyan to view the surveillance video of the Thursday altercation between the women and several police officers outside the government building. The mothers had gone to the government with the intention of requesting a meeting appointment with defense minister Vigen Sargsyan; however, police officers guarding the area did not allow the women to stand by the backdoor of the building, claiming that they were hindering traffic. Moreover, one of the women, Nana Muradyan, subsequently alleged that during the ensuing argument one of the officers had spat at her face, called her a “hobo” and threatened to detain her.
On Friday, the high-ranking police officials invited the mothers for a “friendly chat” to inform them that Yerevan police have launched an internal investigation into the incident. Yerevan police chief Martirosyan was initially unhappy with the fact that the women had asked one of Epress.am correspondents to also be present at the meeting, because he “was hoping for an intimate conversation” with them; nevertheless, he soon agreed to allow our reporter to stay.
“If the matter did not concern the mothers of dead soldiers, the event would have taken an entirely different turn; they would have been detained. However, I, knowing whom the conflict was with, ordered the officers to stop,” Martirosyan insisted at the beginning of the meeting and added that the officers in question were feeling guilty for their actions; “This should have never happened. I am really, really sorry,” the police chief said.
According to Martirosyan, the authorities should have known better than to appoint an “unseasoned” officer to guard the government building; “If he had know who you were, he would have never behaved that way. All of us have special respect for you; we always tell our officers to be especially affable towards you.”
Chief of national police staff Meruzhan Hakobyan, for his part, insisted that from now on they would make sure to assign guards who would be familiar with the mothers and would be polite to them. At the same time, however, he urged the mothers to comply with the demands of police officers during their demonstrations and not to stand in restricted areas.
“We can fire the officers, condemn and shame them, and show the public how good and nice we are. But we are not showmen. If I made a show of such incident every time and fired the officers involved, the police would be left without policemen. Please, my dear, try to understand us,” Hakobyan said, addressing Nana Muradyan.
Irina Ghazaryan and Nana Muradyan were at first convinced that the surveillance footage would verify their allegations about the police officers’ behaviour; however, during the viewing it turned out that the video was incomplete and did not have a sound. In addition, the camera on the government building had shot the officers from behind, and the footage therefore did not show their actions distinctly.
Nevertheless, it was evident from the video that Muradyan had not been standing on the carriageway, and hence the officers’ claims that she had been obstructing traffic were untrue. The footage then showed a police officer approaching Muradyan, who, the woman claimed, “immediately started speaking aggressively to me, and he also spat while talking.” Only then, according to the woman, did she push the officer away and demanded that he stopped spitting at her face. After the remark, she went on, the officer deliberately began to spit more intensively.
The officials asked Muradyan whether the officer had purposely spat at the women or had he just spat while talking, “because those are two entirely different things.” On the day of the incident, police chief Martirosyan said, he questioned the officers who had been on the scene and they all denied the women’s allegations of spitting. Had it actually happened, Martirosyan added confidently, “the officers would have confessed objectively.” The police chief suggested that maybe the officer’s spitting while talking was caused by excessive production of saliva. Muradyan, however, remained unconvinced and insisted that after her remark “he started spitting more profusely.”
While viewing the footage, the officials tried to justify the police officers’ actions, commenting; “Look, they are only performing their duties. It all starts after you refuse to comply with their orders. Look, he’s calmly telling you to move to the side…” Then, addressing Muradyan, Martirosyan continued; “You pushed him first. Look! Look, it’s you; you are hitting him.” According to the police chief, Muradyan should have obeyed the officer’s demands, but, nevertheless, “you should not forget that we all respect you very much,” he added.
Nana Muradyan, however, insisted again that she had not been standing on the carriageway, and the officer’s demands were therefore “unreasonable.” She added that after their demonstration, she saw other picketers standing unimpededly on the spot, to which the police chief replied that the internal investigation would “clear everything up.”
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