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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08YEREVAN668 2008-08-25 12:41:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

POLICE RAID OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS IN YEREVAN CENTER

Tags:   PHUM PGOV PREL AM 
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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251241Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
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INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION WASHINGTON DC
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 0651
					  UNCLAS YEREVAN 000668 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR DRL AND EUR/CARC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL AM
SUBJECT: POLICE RAID OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS IN YEREVAN CENTER

REF:



1. (SBU) Around 1100 on August 25, about 50 policemen raided the
space that opposition activists have occupied for months on
Yerevan's central Northern Avenue, tearing down and confiscating
their posters and all other paper materials. Promptly arriving at
the scene, Poloffs witnessed about 40 protesters and 10 policemen
quarrelling about a new poster calling for new presidential
elections that the demonstrators were attempting to reinstall.
Angry women and men from the crowd were screaming at the policemen,
calling them traitors to the nation. As the situation calmed, the
bulk of the police left the scene, leaving four officers behind with
instructions to tear down any new posters.



2. (SBU) Levon Zurabian from the Armenian National Congress (the new
opposition movement led by Levon Ter-Petrossian (LTP)) speculated
that perhaps the police were infuriated with a new poster the
opposition had recently put up calling for the collection of
signatures to send former president Kocharian to the International
Criminal Court in The Hague. According to Zurabian, the police
kicked and shoved a few people who were trying to hinder them,
though they did not make any arrests. Mikael Danielyan from the
Helsinki Association, who was also there, had heard the police
saying that the residents of Northern Avenue and other passersby had
complained that the posters and the strikers obstructed movement
along the pedestrian mall. Other NGO activists, a few reporters and
two Heritage MPs were also at the scene.



3. (SBU) The pro-LTP mini-encampment had accumulated to a notable
presence in recent weeks, and had long been untroubled by police. A
double-sided poster display had run for some 50 meters, with faces
and stories of jailed LTP supporters, while ANC leaders claimed to
have garnered 100,000 signatures on a petition drive calling for
Kocharian to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. Our
periodic observations over recent weeks -- and as recently as the
evening of August 24 -- revealed that the protest spot gathers
200-300 vocal supporters each evening. Lately, ANC organizers had
begun addressing the crowd with a megaphone in the evening hours.
Levon Ter-Petrossian himself had appeared at the Northern Avenue
protest site during the evening of August 23, commemorating an
anniversary of Armenia's independence movement, accompanied by Aram
Manukian, who was famous for his role in the independence movement.
Zurabian tells us Manukian has been in hiding from authorities since
the March 1-2 events.



4. (SBU) COMMENT: It is not clear exactly why police chose the
current moment to act against the Northern Avenue protesters, after
several months of leaving them unmolested. Perhaps Zurabian's
hypothesis is correct, and the provocative new poster crossed a line
for authorities. Alternatively, authorities may have felt that this
protest was starting to gather too much traction, and that it was
time to take it down a judicious notch, while at the same time
showing enough restraint to avoid either sparking a new outbreak of
opposition outrage or bringing down a new wave of human rights
criticism.

PENNINGTON