On March 12, 2017, the ‘Ohanyan-Raffi-Oskanyan’ (‘ORO’) Alliance, and later the Police and the Investigative Committee as well made a statement about an incident after ‘ORO’ Alliance election campaign meeting in Jrarat village of Armavir marz (region), during which firearms were also used. The ‘ORO’ Alliance representatives from Jrarat village were taken to the police and released some hours later.
Then, the supporters of the ‘ORO’ Alliance involved in the previous incident were injured in another incident with the use of firearms in the same village on March 14.
The incidents are investigated both by the Investigative Committee and the Internal Security Department of the Police.
The ‘Independent Observer’ Public Alliance carries out a long-term observation mission, within which it decided to investigate the incidents.
Use of firearms
The Police informed that on March 12, firearms were used by Colonel Lernik Yeranosyan serving at Police Troops military unit 1001, who was taken to hospital after the incident. Moreover, there was a pistol shot, but no one was injured. After the shot, the ‘ORO’ Alliance representatives seized the firearms from Lernik Yeranosyan’s hands and then handed it over to the police. This was also confirmed by the ‘ORO’ Alliance leaders.
The Police also informed us that during the incident Colonel Lernik Yeranosyan was not performing his official duties. The Makarov pistol was assigned to (or belonged to) Lernik Yeranosyan.
The data collected by our long-term observers in Jrarat revealed that on March 14 an incident occurred in the same village between the brother of the head of village, a police officer armed with an assault rifle, Seryozha Galstyan and participants of the previous incident. This information is also confirmed by the ‘ORO’ Alliance. And the Investigative Committee insists that the person armed with an assault rifle was someone else and 4 shots were fired.
According to the eyewitnesses we talked to and the ‘ORO’ Alliance, metal rods were also used during the incident. ‘Erebuni’ hospital informed the journalists that one of the 3 injured persons has a gunshot wound, the other – a piercing/cutting injury, and the other one – a fracture. The published video suggests that Deputy Chief of Police Levon Yeranosyan was present at the time of at least one of the shots and some beating episodes.
Note that it was previously established that Lernik Yeranosyan is the brother of Levon Yeranosyan, Deputy Chief of Police of Armenia and Police Troops Commander. The Yeranosyans live in Jrarat village and the head of that village, Republican Samvel Galstyan is their nephew.
Links with the elections
The law enforcement representatives neither confirm, nor deny that the 1st incident with the use of firearms was linked with the elections and the ‘ORO’ Alliance members insist on such a link and provide details.
Particularly, when taking to our long-term observers, Armen Martirosyan, an ‘ORO’ Alliance leader, noted that during their election campaign meeting in Jrarat on March 12, head of village Samvel Galstyan came up to some of the citizens, swore at them and told them to leave the ally. After the event, the ‘ORO’ Alliance supporters from Jrarat settled accounts with the head of village for the swear words and had a dispute. After the dispute, Colonel of Police Lernik Yeranosyan, uncle of the head of village, visited the ‘ORO’ Alliance supporters and taking out his pistol told them to get on their knees before him. After they refused to do so, Yeranosyan shot in the air and then the Alliance supporters seized the pistol from Yeranosyan’s hands.
One of the published videos also shows how the pistol was voluntary handed over to the police.
In a phone conversation with our long-term observer, Armen Ashotyan, Deputy President of the Republican Party of Armenia, refused to comment on the incident.
Our long-term observers who visited Jrarat on March 13 tried to talk to the incident participants (including the head of the village or ‘ORO’ Alliance supporters), but in vain. But many citizens confirmed the links between the incident and the ‘ORO’ Alliance assembly and that the dispute was caused by the head of village swearing at some of the election campaign assembly participants.
In the Jrarat incident of March 14, the persons who seized the pistol from Lernik Yeranosyan’s hands 2 days before were injured and according to the eyewitnesses, the Yeranosyan and Galstayan families were involved in the incident. Moreover, as noted, the fact that Levon Yeranosyan took part in the incident in plain clothes is proven by the published video as well.
In other words, while the March 14 incident had no political context, it was the continuation of the March 12 incident. This was confirmed by both the families of the injured persons and the residents to whom we talked. However, some of the residents the March 14 incident directly with the ‘ORO’ Alliance assembly. In their interviews with our long-term observers, none of Jrarat residents (including the village head’s family) said anything about any previous conflicts or disputes between the incident parties.
However, the Police stated that the incident started with a dispute among children in the village school. Nevertheless, our observers in the village also noticed Hunan Poghosyan, First Deputy Chief of Police.
It should be noted that despite numerous statements that the head of Jrarat village obstructed the ‘ORO’ Alliance assembly, none of the law enforcement agencies examined that episode. Here, it is also noteworthy that while no notification was submitted on the assembly of March 12, the number of its participants was less than 100 and therefore it was completely legal.
Atmosphere in Jrarat
While obviously, on March 12 and 14 pistol and assault rifle shots were fired in Jrarat, people in the village fear to talk about it. All the villagers interviewed by ‘Azatutyun’ radio station journalist on March 13 and almost all the villagers interviewed in the evening of March 14 unanimously argued that they heard no shots. In their talk with our long-term observers who visited Jrarat, the villagers also overwhelmingly said that they had heard no shots and knew nothing of the incident.
In their interview to our observers, only a few people confirmed that the incident took place but they did so after getting guarantees that their names would not be made public. Back on March 13, some of those people noted that ‘ORO’ Alliance representatives involved in the incident still feared to return to Jrarat.
According to the eyewitnesses we talked to, the incident with use of firearms took place near the municipality of Jrarat village. Persons armed with either rifle assaults or metal rods and knives ambushed in the village municipality building. This information was also confirmed by ‘ORO’ Alliance.
It should also be noted that Deputy Chief of Police Levon Yeranosyan is know for coordinating violence against protesters and giving direct orders to use violence against journalists. Furthermore, after all those incidents, on New Year event, Serzh Sargsyan awarded Levon Yeranosyan with a medal for ‘excellent maintenance of the public order’. Many villagers in Jrarat ‘kindly advised’ our observers even not to pass by the Yeranosyans’ house.
Lernik Yeranosyan has a previous conviction for provoking disputes in a drunken state when he was still a commander at a military unit of the Armed Forces and persecuting his own deputy with threats to kill him. On July 29, 2016 Lernik Yeranosyan threw a flash-bang grenade at the journalists in Sari Tagh. After that incident, by Chief of Police Vladimir Gasparyan’s order Yeranosyan’s official duties were suspended, but later he re-assumed his office.
Note also that while during the incident in the morning of March 14 in Jrarat, Levon Yeranosyan was in plain clothes and according to some eyewitnesses, did nothing to calm down his relatives, a few hours later our observers noticed him in general’s uniform coordinating law enforcement officers’ actions.
When talking about the incident, the residents of Jrarat village either tried not to mention Levon Yeranosyan’s name or whispered it (even when there was no one else around). Anyway, the fact is that the Yeranosyans family members and supporters were armed with a pistol and an illegal assault rifle and used those firearms against the ‘ORO’ Alliance supporters.
Upon examining the said factual circumstances, the ‘Independent Observer’ Public Alliance long-term observers made the conclusions below:
«Independent Observer» Public Alliance ,
on behalf of founding members:
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor office,
Union of Informed Citizens,
Martuni Women’s Community Council and
Goris Press Club