Investigators in Armenia Raid Pro-Western Group’s Offices

Investigators in Armenia Raid Pro-Western Group’s Offices

Investigators conducted raids on Friday at the offices of a fringe political group that has been increasingly vocal in its criticism of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The raids were in connection with an armed assault on a police station in Yerevan, allegedly carried out by individuals associated with the group.

The homes of Zhirayr Sefilian, the leader of the National Democratic Alliance (AZhB), a pro-Western faction, along with those of several of his associates, were also searched. There were no immediate reports of new arrests following the raids.

Vahagn, the son of Zhirayr Sefilian, expressed dismay over the raid, stating that the investigators had thoroughly searched their premises and disrupted their belongings. He also mentioned that they were denied access to observe the activities of the investigators, including intrusive searches of personal computers.

Ara Papian, a prominent member of AZhB, criticized the raids, asserting that the authorities were attempting to unfairly portray their organization in a negative light by linking it to the attack.

The attack on the police headquarters in Yerevan’s Nor Nork district occurred on March 24 when three assailants detonated a hand grenade at the entrance. Two of the attackers sustained serious injuries in the explosion, while the third, Stepan Hovakimian, was apprehended by security forces after threatening to detonate another grenade.

Prior to the attack, Hovakimian voiced grievances in a video broadcast on Facebook, particularly regarding the brief detentions of AZhB members and supporters who had visited disputed border regions in Armenia’s northern Tavush province. These regions were subjects of contention due to Pashinyan’s intentions to unilaterally cede them to Azerbaijan.

While the leadership of AZhB denied any involvement in the attack, Ara Papian attempted to rationalize the actions of the assailants, describing their actions as an attempted “uprising” and asserting their right to rebel.

AZhB leaders have been associated with incarcerated members of an armed group that besieged another police station in Yerevan in 2016, demanding the resignation of then-President Serzh Sarkisian. Following a two-week standoff with security forces, during which three police officers lost their lives, the gunmen surrendered. Most of them were released after Pashinyan assumed power in the 2018 “velvet revolution.” However, seven key members of the group, known as Sasna Tsrer, were reincarcerated in May 2022.