Justice Minister Assures Punishment for Gyumri Disturbances

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Armenia’s Justice Minister David Haroutounian announced in parliament on Tuesday that those responsible for the disturbances at last weekend’s opposition rally in Gyumri–would be strictly punished–regardless of party belonging or their rank–and added that even authorities implicated in the incident will have to be responsible for their actions.

According to RFE/RL–the Gyumri gathering was disrupted when some participants scuffled with several women who raised banners denouncing President Robert Kocharian’s opponents. Shortly afterwards–several men charged towards the podium amid eggs thrown in the direction of the opposition leaders. The confrontation turned into a fistfight that ended with four opposition activists taken away by plain-clothes police officers.

Prime Minister Andranik Margarian–also addressing parliament–announced that the authorities operate only under the rule of law–and responded to claims by opposition parliament member Hrant Khachatrian that "certain bodies have begun to hire paid combatants."

Margarian–speaking of forces that safeguard internal security and stability–and the army that defends the country from external threats–stressed that–in spite of opposition claims–the government has no other troops and has not hired combatants.

Emphasizing the government’s support of any opposition activities within the framework of the law–Margarian said–"We have no right to limit political rights or rights of citizens; the consideration–however–is the method the opposition chooses to realize its goals. If those are outside legal limitations–then the government has a direct responsibility to protect internal security and the interests of the country."

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