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Armenia: Opposition detainees released

alexander

Photo: former foreign minister Alexander Arzumanian (left) with former president and extra-parliamentary opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian (right), Yerevan, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia

Following a general amnesty agreed upon by the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia on 19 June, several senior opposition figures on trial and in detention for over a year since the 1 March post-election unrest in the country were finally pardoned and released. Many observers believe the trials were politically motivated.

Although The Armenian Observer [EN/AM] reports that the politically polarized blogosphere in the country was divided on the matter, opposition bloggers were naturally elated albeit with some concerns. Unzipped, perhaps the most thought-provoking if unashamedly pro-opposition of local blogs, says that the amnesty does not go far enough.

Unfortunately, it is not clear how (if at all) this amnesty will apply to those opposition activists/supporters who are on the run and in hiding now. Also, it became clear from the terms of declared amnesty that it will not apply to some political prisoners.

It is always welcome to see numbers of those detained on a politically motivated charges reduced. However, I will only truly welcome this news if Armenian authorities free all of them.

[…] Having even one political prisoner is shameful for Armenia, deplorable and should not be tolerated.

Nazarian also comments on how long the men were in detention and posts a video.

I can't believe how the political prisoners have aged. I hope the others are freed soon. The most immoral thing a government can do is jail innocent people. It simply undermines the whole notion of justice as we understand it.

Tzitzernak2, however, is elated by the news, but still confused. The pro-opposition blog also implies that the move was made only to appease the Council of Europe.

Sirunyan, Hakobyan, Malkhasyan and Arzumanyan are OUT!
Mikaelyan has been kept, he was given eight years, and therefore was not eligible….

It is still not clear what the exact criteria for the Amnesty were, and who else is eligible, but at this point confusion and lack of clarity are nothing new…

[…]

I still dont know what will happen to Ashot Manukyan, Jhangiryan, and others…
But, as we all knew, PACE is satisfied…

Meanwhile, on my Frontline Club blog, I describe stumbling upon a gathering where four of those detained were met by hundreds of supporters in a Yerevan park.

When you see things like that in Armenia it usually means something political is happening — and it was. Earlier in the day a Yerevan court had found four senior opposition figures guilty of organizing the 1 March 2008 post-election disturbances which left 10 people dead.

The Council of Europe and others, however, consider the case against the four men, including two MPs and a former foreign minister, to be politically motivated. After a year of international pressure an amnesty was announced last week and the still convicted men walked free. The former president and extra-parliamentary opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian was there to greet them. […]

The accidental encounter also provided an opportunity to stream 20 seconds of live video from mobile of the first and former president, now extra-parliamentary opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian, standing by his former foreign minister released earlier the same day.

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