This story is over 5 years old.

Hostage situation at police station triggers violent protests in Armenia

A standoff that began on July 17 is still ongoing, and the situation has escalated to include clashes between riot police and hundreds of protesters.
Photo by Aram Kirakosyan/AP

Riot police and pro-opposition protesters clashed again on Saturday in Armenia's capital Yerevan, a day after at least 75 demonstrators were injured when they tried to approach the scene of an ongoing hostage situation inside a police compound.

The standoff began on July 17 when around 30 armed members of an opposition group stormed a police station and took several hostages. The hostage-takers are demanding the release of Jirair Sefilian, the leader of the country's Founding Parliament opposition group. He was arrested last month on weapons charges and accused with his supporters of plotting to seize government buildings and take over a TV transmission tower.


Since the takeover of the police building, Armenian security forces have wounded eight of the gunmen. On Wednesday, the occupiers took four medical personnel hostage who arrived at the police compound to treat the group's wounded men, Al Jazeera reported.

The hostage-takers also fatally shot a police officer. Police spokesman Ashot Agaronyan said in a statement that the officer was in a vehicle close to the station when he was killed by sniper fire, according to TASS, a Russian news agency.

Hundreds of pro-opposition supporters came out in a show of solidarity on Friday night. The Associated Press reported that skirmishes broke out when the demonstrators tried to get past rows of riot police flanking the building. The cops reportedly used stun guns and batons to disperse the protesters, who threw rocks in retaliation.

Police barbarity in Armenia's Yerevan last night. Protesters, journos attacked by stun grenades, suffer from burns— Maxim Eristavi (@MaximEristavi)July 30, 2016

The AP said some people — including journalists — were attacked by armed men who "appeared to be plainclothes police officers." Police arrested 165 people and 26 remained in custody on Saturday, according to the AP.

Thousands of Armenians took the streets of their capital last year to protest rising electricity costs and other grievances with the government of the former Soviet republic, a series of demonstrations that were dubbed "Electric Yerevan." Riot police used water cannons to disperse the crowds and arrested dozens.

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen