YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–A woman identified by law enforcement authorities Wednesday as the unidentified person who claimed during the March 1 protest that security forces killed a 12 year old boy admitted to disseminating false information during the demonstration.
In a statement Wednesday the office of the prosecutor-general said the woman is Laura Melkonian, a resident of the town of Martuni in Gegharkunik province. The statement said the woman was questioned as a witness admitting to disseminating overtly false information on March 1 afternoon when demonstrators massed near the French embassy in Yerevan.
The woman had claimed that security forces killed a 12 year-old boy when dispersing supporters of ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian on Freedom Square in the early hours of March 1. Several local dailies published the photo of the woman for several consecutive days asking Armenia’s to help reveal her identity.
The statement further said the woman admitted that it was a provocation designed by some people saying also she regrets doing it.
She told investigators that she heard some people who were near the embassy saying that police officers killed a 12 year-old boy in the morning. Then she took out an old shoe from a nearby garbage bin and declared that it was the slain boy’s shoe.
"Following that some people took the shoe away, put it at the monument, lit a candle and laid flowers," she said.
Melkonian noted that she believed her claims had a marked affect on the people protesting that day. They became emotional and began swearing at police officers, she said.
"Now I understand that the rumor about the boy’s murder by police was a provocation, which I unknowingly repeated," she said. "I regret this greatly," she added.
In related news, Armenian prosecutors confirmed on Wednesday that two of the opposition activists facing lengthy prison sentences for their involvement in the post-election protests in Yerevan were arrested in Georgia and extradited to Armenia by Georgian law-enforcement authorities.
Samvel Abovian and Suren Sirunian are among more than a hundred supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian arrested in the wake of Armenia’s disputed presidential election. Like the vast majority of the detainees, they have been charged in connection with the March 1 deadly clashes in Yerevan between riot police and Ter-Petrosian supporters.
A leader of the Armenian community in Tbilisi, Arnold Stepanian, told RFE/RL earlier this week that dozens of Ter-Petrosian supporters have fled to Georgia since the launch of investigations into the unrest. He said at least two of them have been arrested and extradited by the Georgian police.
A spokeswoman for Georgia’s Interior Ministry denied this.
But both Abovian and Sirunian insisted through their defense lawyer that they did flee to Tbilisi to avoid prosecution at home following the March 1 unrest.
"They were detained in Georgia on March 9, at one o’clock in the morning," the lawyer, Anzhela Hobosian, told RFE/RL. She said the two men were handed over to Armenian law-enforcement bodies on March 10 and formally charged with organizing "mass riots" two days later.
A spokeswoman for Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General, Sona Truzian, confirmed the information. But she declined to give further details.
A spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Tigran Balayan, pointed to a 2000 Georgian-Armenian agreement that obligates the two governmen’s to extradite criminal suspects.
"According to our information, there are now some 40 people in Georgia who fled Armenia and fear that they would be arrested upon their return home," he said. "They are all opposition members who participated in the [Ter-Petrosian] rallies."
Stepanian said he has met and spoken with several fugitive oppositionists. He said some of them claimed to be members of the opposition Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) and the Yerkrapah Union of Armenian war veterans that unofficially supported Ter-Petrosian during the presidential race.