Friday 24 March 2017 | 22:51

Hovsep Khurshudyan: Sasna Tsrer group isn’t terrorist, but a response to the political mayhem of the state

21.07.2016  |  In the World   |  Piotr Kuchta,  EuroBelarus
Hovsep Khurshudyan: Sasna Tsrer group isn’t terrorist, but a response to the political mayhem of the state AP

On July 17, an armed group seized the building of the Patrol-Guard Service Regiment in Erebuni district of Yerevan. First National Security Service reported about "an armed group", then – "terrorists"

It’s been five days now since the armed supporters of the Founding Parliament opposition movement seized the building of the Patrol-Guard Service Regiment in Erebuni district of Yerevan, where several hostages are held.

The situation in Yerevan and its perception by the Armenian society in the interview with the “EuroBelarus” Information Service describes Hovsep Khurshudyan, the member of the Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum.

 - Let me stress that the members of the group are mainly the representatives of socio-political movement "Founding Parliament"; i.e. Sasna Tsrer group has no criminal elements among it, and there are politicians who have been engaged in political struggle for a long time. But their struggle, just as the struggle of all other political parties alternative to the authorities did not bring any results, because it has been impossible to reach any changes in Armenia in a constitutional way for a long time: the criminal-oligarchic elements and structures have usurped the power. It's no secret that almost all elections in Armenia are falsified; that power remains in the hands of one and the same people with a few cosmetic changes in the membership. Well, the seizure of the police building is an extreme step, but let me note that this is the second such case in 2016. In the first case the National Security Service arrested a group of people who were reported to “get ready for military operations for political reasons” before the start of an armed conflict. For a small country the second similar case in a year is too much. I.e. all peaceful methods were exhausted, so politicians and activists started to reject peaceful struggle. Of course, all this is very dangerous and is fraught with unpredictable consequences, these are the extreme measures; but nevertheless, the UN Charter and generally accepted parameters guidelines for human rights provide for people’s right to revolt if all the other ways are exhausted and it is impossible to protect their own rights in the country otherwise. And these people - Sasna Tsrer group - used this right.

- What moods prevail in the Armenian society these days?

- Judging by public opinion from the social networks, mostly we can see mass support of this statement; if judging by the TV channels that are completely under the control of the authorities, Sasna Tsrer group is called terrorists and is condemned. The authorities is doing their best to present these people in a bad light; but political demands of Sasna Tsrer group are already impossible to hide.

- What are these demands?

- They are quite clear: the release of all political prisoners and the resignation of the president Serzh Sargsyan. Note that the mass support of the Sasna Tsrer group has concerned the government a lot, so they literally started mass terror against civic activists, and, by and large, against the general public. They are now catching civilians that are suspected of having leanings towards the group right on the streets, beating them in police cars, handcuffed, on the way to the police stations. When a person gets to the station, he is being kept five or six hours without the access of lawyers, i.e. with violation of all procedures – according to our laws, a person cannot be detained for more than two hours without a special warrant. But the authorities are demonstrating complete mayhem.

- And how successful are such actions for the authorities?

- People keep gathering all the time, including the most famous and influential cultural figures and men of science. The authorities are deeply concerned that such meetings may lead to mass public demonstrations… There are calls for street demonstrations, for peaceful elimination of power - that is, mass demonstration that, according to many, can prevent the possibility of a bloody clash between the rebels and the police. Now the authorities don’t introduce military solution to the conflict – and not just because the building has high-ranking hostages - there is also a lot of weapons, it will be a serious battle that will have unpredictable consequences, since the public is actually, supporting the rebels.

- Thus, only negotiations remain, don’t they? Are the authorities ready for the dialogue?

- As far as I understand, there is an ongoing mediated dialogue between the authorities and the rebels; I think, that’s why on July 18 another hostage has been released as a gesture of goodwill. But I'm not sure that the government will make real concessions. To release fifteen political prisoners? It is the beginning of the end for the authorities; all the political prisoners are now heroes in the society, which makes their return extremely dangerous for the authorities. Serzh Sargsyan is unlikely to agree to resign either. We shouldn’t forget that he came to power after the murder of 10 peaceful demonstrators killed by the police and oligarchs guards on March 1, 2008. So the situation remains unpredictable and highly explosive.

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