YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–An Armenian journalist and a young opposition activist were set free on Thursday despite being formally charged with assaulting police officers in Yerevan.
Another activist arrested during Monday’s clash between riot police and opposition protesters was expected to be remanded in pre-trial custody on a similar charge later in the day.
All three young people will face up to five years in prison if they are tried and found guilty.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) released Ani Gevorgian, a correspondent of the pro-opposition daily “Haykakan Zhamanak,” and her brother Sargis pending trial, shortly before the end of a 72-hour legal period during which Armenian law-enforcement bodies can keep suspects in custody without a charge.
A SIS statement said they both have been charged under Article 316 of the Armenian Criminal Code dealing with violence against “representatives of the state authority performing their legitimate duties.” Neither the SIS, nor the Armenian police elaborated on the accusation.
The police only released video of similar confrontation between their officers and two dozen supporters of the opposition Armenian National Congress that occurred near the city’s Liberty Square on Sunday. It shows the 22-year journalist striking a police officer’s hat off his head. A voiceover in the footage, which was expected to be broadcast by state television, accuses her of involvement in “primitive provocations” organized by the opposition.
“I consider it an illegal accusation,” Ani Gevorgian told fellow reporters after her release from a police detention center. “I did not commit any crime for which I could be imprisoned.”
Gevorgian claimed that policemen repeatedly kicked and punched her during the violent incidents. “I fell down and they walked over me toward Sargis and hit him too,” she said.
“The police actions did not fit into any law,” said Yervand Varosian, one of her lawyers. “They were illegal right from the beginning. Therefore, anything done to them during that process can not fall under Article 316.”
Gevorgian’s arrest was condemned by Armenia’s leading media associations. They were quick to demand her immediate release.
The New York-based Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) backed the demand in a statement issued late on Wednesday. The statement cited, among other things, an RFE/RL footage of Gevorgian’s arrest.
“Based on the video and accounts provided by her editor, we’re deeply skeptical of the police allegations against Ani Gevorgian,” Joel Simon, the CPJ executive director, said. “The evidence indicates that she was at the rally doing her job.”
Gevorgian insisted that he is undaunted by the accusation pending against her and the possibility of imprisonment. “I’m getting ready to cover a possible opposition action as early as tomorrow, or even today,” she said with a smile.
Her brother also struck a defiant note. “I will continue to take part in all opposition protests … We will stage protests in support of Davit [Kiramijian,]” he said, referring to the activist remaining in jail.
“My further actions will not be different from the previous ones,” added Sargis Gevorgian. “So their hopes to influence us in this way have proved misplaced.”