head of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly in Vanadzor
has been arrested for resisting arrest in connection
with his attempt to organize a meeting protesting
voting violations in the March 5 Presidential
Artur Sakunts was arrested last Saturday on two
counts. In the first count, charging that Sakunts
was illegally trying to organize a demonstration,
Sakunts was found not guilty. But he was given
a 10 day "administrative detention"
sentence for resisting arrest.
A day before Sakunts' arrest, the HCA office
was firebombed, causing about $1,000 worth of
HCA placed observers at polling stations on March
5, and had called for a meeting last Saturday
to protest what they said were violations.
About 50 people gathered outside the HCA office
last Saturday, under a banner saying "Defend
Your Vote". Police dispersed the crowd and
took Sakunts away, saying they wanted to speak
with him, but then arresting him.
Rights Watch issued a statement condemning the
arrest and citing other reports of abuse of power
in the wake of the controversial election, won
by President Robert Kocharyan.
In addition to Sakunts, at least 32 citizens
have been arrested in the past four days on charges
related to post-election tensions.
"Artur Sakunts should be freed immediately
and unconditionally," said Elizabeth Andersen,
executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe
and Asia division. "The arson attack on his
office, and police abuse of their powers should
be the focus of investigation - not a man who
is advocating for Armenian voters' rights."
Representatives of nine local and international
rights protecting organizations (Yerevan Press
Club, Internews, Armenia's Helsinki Committee,
etc.) attended a press conference in Vanadzor
on Tuesday, demanding Sakunts' release.