Remember all that hysteria about cases of looting in the immediate aftermath of 1 March event in Yerevan when days and nights government backed Armenian Public TV propaganda machine was showing footages of looting and airing strongly worded condemnations by various official or 'public' representatives. They were trying to justify government's use of force against protesters by depicting them as criminals, looters and similar epithets, you name it... Back then, independent and pro-opposition observers compared these attempts with a Soviet style propaganda and suggested the role of 'agent provocateurs'.
A remarkable court case today proves how this sort of propaganda machine could backfire. This story shed some light on looting incidents, in particular describing the case of three looters who were apparently proxies of incumbent president Serj Sargsyan during February presidential election. No, this does not mean that we should now consider all looters as supporters of current authorities, or 'agent provocateurs', and that there were no one among them who happened to support opposition movement, or neither. Most significantly, this case proves once more that in case of troubles and tragedies there are always people out there - regardless of political affiliations - who prefer gaining profits via others' tragedy, via ugly and criminal means. The ugliest thing of all, however, was to use these incidents and these ugly people in propaganda machine aired by what supposed to be a Public TV of Armenia.
Three men who claim to have been President Serzh Sarkisian’s election proxies were sentenced to three and a half years in prison on Wednesday for looting a Yerevan shop during the March 1 clashes between police and opposition protesters.
The Criminal Court in Yerevan convicted Hovannes Mnatsakanian, Armen Grigorian and Yuri Ghukasian of stealing 648,000 drams ($2,125) worth of goods and video surveillance and recording equipment from a shoe store in the city center. They all pleaded guilty to the accusations.
Mnatsakanian got a suspended sentence and walked free in the court. But the two other defendants, both of them residents of the southern town of Artashat, were sent to prison.
The three men, who have past criminal records, were among several dozen persons arrested following the worst street violence in Armenia’s history which left at least ten people dead. The deadly clashes broke out when security forces tried to disperse thousands of supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian who barricaded themselves on a vast street intersection outside the Yerevan mayor’s office.
The clashes, resulting in a police retreat from the scene, were followed by the looting of several nearby shops and the burning of dozens of police and civilian cars. Organizers of the protest have disavowed these acts, blaming them on government “provocateurs.”
During the trial the self-confessed looters asserted that unlike the vast majority of the detainees they are not supporters of Ter-Petrosian. They claimed that they not only voted for Sarkisian but worked as his proxies during the February 19 presidential election.