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Yerevan Sit-In Demonstrators Being ‘Threatened and Harassed’ by Police

A group of young people have been holding a three-day-long sit-in on Yerevan’s Freedom Square to show their support for Artur Sargsyan, the man who drove through a police cordon last summer to deliver food to the opposition gunmen occupying a Yerevan police station and was subsequently jailed on suspicion of aiding the armed group. Speaking to Epress.am on Thursday, one of the organizers of the sit-in, political prisoner Shant Harutyunyan’s son Shahen Harutyunyan, said the demonstrators are being harassed and threatened by police.

On the first and second day of the sit-in, according to Harutyunyan, law enforcement officers went up to the demonstrators and found out their names “for security reasons.” Soon after, many of the young people began receiving university expulsion threats; some of their parents have also been threatened with being fired from their jobs.

Police officers, Harutyunyan continued, have visited the demonstrators’ homes and urged their parents to prohibit their children from going to the Freedom Square. The sit-in organizer, however, refused to give us the demonstrators’ names in fear of further harassment.

“There is a girl from Gyumri whose parents are abroad. [Police] have called and told them they would resort to ‘extreme measures’ if their daughter did not end her sit-in. Then they detained her uncle and her cousin and told her to sign a document that she would stop going to the Square. Only then, police said, her relatives would be released,” Harutyunyan said.

He added that he has personally not been threatened yet; “They haven’t directly targeted me. I guess it’s their way of making sure I am left with no one by my side on the Square.”