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Charge Against Armenian Opposition Activist Raised

Tigran Arakelian being detained by police at a Yervan demonstration (undated).
YEREVAN -- A more serious charge was brought against a member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Monday, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Tigran Arakelian, 28, was initially arrested and charged with hooliganism -- a crime punishable by up to five years in jail -- after a clash with plainclothes police on July 1 while he and several dozen activists publicized a forthcoming HAK rally in Yerevan's city center.

But Arakelian is now accused of assault on "a representative of the state authority" and could be sentenced to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

Arakelian and two other activists were injured in the July 1 incident and required hospitalization. They said they were punched, kicked, and pistol-whipped for informing city residents about the rally.

Arakelian was taken to a prison hospital shortly after July 5 and has been there ever since. Arakelian's lawyer, Vartuhi Elbakian, says he is in poor condition.

Police say they came under attack while trying to stop a brawl involving some 60 people.

The testimony of police officer Erik Poghosian is the basis of the increased criminal charges against Arakelian. Elbakian notes that Poghosian gave incriminating testimony against several prominent opposition figures arrested following last years' postelection unrest in Yerevan.

She told RFE/RL that her demands for Arakelian's release from pretrial detention were repeatedly rejected by police and the prosecution. Elbakian added that she has no hope that the Armenian Appeals Court will grant her appeal petition.