US calls for respecting freedom of assembly in Armenia

US calls for respecting freedom of assembly in Armenia

US Embassy in Armenia has called for respecting freedom of expression and assembly, Mediamax news agency reported.

"We are concerned about reports of excessive police use of force to disperse the crowd on the morning of June 23, as well as several reports of abuse while in police custody," the US Embassy in Armenia said.

"In addition, we are troubled by reports that journalists and their equipment were specifically targeted during the operation. It is imperative that the Government conduct a full and transparent investigation of reports of the excessive use of force by the police to the full extent of Armenian law."

Earlier on June 23, the Armenian police broke up a rally in the center of the country's capital. The rally was held in protest against the increase in the electricity tariffs.

Powerful jets of water cannons pushed the protesters to the Marshal Baghramyan Avenue towards the Opera Theatre in Yerevan.

On June 17, Armenia's Public Services Regulatory Commission, considering a request from the distribution company, Electric Networks of Armenia, which is a subsidiary of the Inter RAO UES, raised the electricity tariffs by 6.93 Armenian drams (about $0.015). This caused discontent among the population that believes the rise in the cost of electricity will lead to higher prices for essential goods and many services.

The protesters received no response from authorities and thousands of people marched to the presidential palace, located on the Marshal Baghramyan Avenue.

Journalists were arrested among 237 others after the violent crackdown on the protesters in Yerevan. The Armenian media outlets said the journalists of the Gala TV, the Radio Liberty's Armenian office, the Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper, the Hetq, News.am, Panarmenian.net news agencies were taken to various police stations.

The protests in Yerevan resumed in the evening of June 23.

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