As youth activists face trial in Azerbaijan on charges of hooliganism despite eye witness accounts that they were instead the victims of assault, concerns are emerging that the way in which young opponents are targeted is becoming the modus operandi for authoritarian regimes in the region.
This is particularly true given a similar case in Armenia when several members of the opposition Hima! (Now!) youth movement were injured while handing out leaflets advertising a political rally at the beginning of July. Reports say that some of them were pistol whipped by police.
The detention of one for “hooliganism” has led opposition blogs such as Free Armenia to consider him as the “youngest political prisoner” in the country.
Young oppositional activist Tigran Arakelyan was arrested on 5 July 2009 by the Armenian Police, based on false charge for hooliganism. On 1 July 2009 about 15 policemen dressed in civilian attacked with guns about 30 young oppositional activists who distributed leaflets, informing upcoming opposition rally to be held on 2 July 2009 in Yerevan. 3 of them were severally beaten and taken to the hospital Surb Grigor Lusavorich. Now they fabricated a criminal case of hooliganism and arrested one of the young activists.
Nazarian, another pro-opposition blogger, also comments on the case. The blog posts a photograph of Arakelyan, noting his diminutive size, and alleges that those the young activist is accused of assaulting were undercover agents.
The group of hooligans, it turns out, were KGB people in civilian clothing.
Yesterday one of the hospitalized who was pistol-whipped, Tigran Arakelian, was imprisoned – he was called to be interviewed as a witness to the event but then was arrested.
He is accused of:
– attacking three policemen,
– beating them up, and;
– when the policemen tried to run away to escape him, he is accused of:
– chasing them down and;
– beating them again.
For a moment one might think that Mr. Arakelian is a vicious animal but the picture above shows that you can fit two Mr. Arakelians in the space an average ment (Armenian cop) occupies.
So, we have one more political prisoner.
The Hima! blog reports that Arakelyan has since gone on hunger strike and that the chairperson of the main political party in the extra-parliamentary opposition coalition has joined him in the action. Sentence has not been passed and the activist has been detained for two months pending final judgement.
A Facebook page has also been set up in Arakelyan's support.