YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A high-ranking police official on Tuesday defended and assumed personal responsibility for the break-up of the Armenian opposition’s post-election protests in Yerevan’s Liberty Square which led to the street violence in the country’s history.
Major General Sasha Afian, a deputy chief of the national police, gave some details of the Liberty Square violence as he testified before an Armenian parliamentary commission investigating the post-election unrest. Afian said he personally ordered some 600 officers from various police divisions to enter the square and “restore public order.” “I am the one who gave the order after the incident,” he said.
Afian reiterated the official version of the events whereby the police decided to break up the unsanctioned protest only after the demonstrators led by Ter-Petrosian refused to allow them to search the square. He claimed that the police received on February 29 “reliable information” that he protesters will be handed out firearms, explosives, iron bars and other weapons to stage a coup d’etat allegedly planned by Ter-Petrosian.
Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian told the parliament earlier that law-enforcement authorities received such information on February 19. Afian gave no clear explanation for the discrepancy when pressed by commission members.
“All the demonstrators were witnesses,” Afian commented in that regard.