YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Armenian law-enforcement authorities have refused to prosecute the head of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s security detail who reportedly assaulted two journalists during a recent opposition demonstration in Yerevan.
Sargis Hovannisyan, who runs the State Protection Service (SPS), was approached by a cameraman and a reporter for the news website Mediahub.am on May 2 as he apparently issued orders to security forces confronting opposition protesters at a major street intersection.
Videos circulated online showed Hovannisian shouting at the female reporter, Nare Gevorgyan, before hitting her microphone. Gevorgyan said he also kicked the cameraman, Arman Gharajyan, during the incident strongly condemned by Armenian media groups.
Responding to the uproar, prosecutors ordered the Investigative Committee to look into the incident and determine whether Hovannisian broke the law.
In a statement issued late last week, the committee cleared Hovannisyan of any wrongdoing. It put the blame on the journalists, saying that they interfered with the high-ranking officer’s work and ignored his legitimate orders to stop filming him and asking him questions.
Gevorgyan on Monday denounced the Investigative Committee’s decision as “ridiculous” and said she will challenge it in court.
“Our live stream and footage represent complete evidence of a crime,” the journalist told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Hovannisyan, whose agency provides bodyguards to Pashinyan and other senior state officials, was already caught on camera kicking an opposition protester in Yerevan last year. He was not prosecuted or subjected to disciplinary action.
Opposition leaders have questioned the legality of Hovannisian’s presence at anti-government demonstrations, arguing that the SPS’s powers do not include crowd control. Some of them have accused the SPS chief of ordering riot police to beat up opposition supporters demanding Pashinyan’s resignation.
Videos posted on social media in recent weeks showed some police officers kicking and punching protesters arrested by their colleagues. None of those officers is facing criminal proceedings.
Law-enforcement authorities have instead arrested and pressed assault charges against more than three dozen participants of the Armenian opposition’s “civil disobedience” campaign launched on May 1.