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By Hrach Melkumian
A senior official from the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) monitoring the fulfillment of Armenia’s membership commitments was accused by the Armenian opposition on Monday of being effectively bribed by the authorities during a visit to Yerevan last week.

Poland’s Jerzy Jaskiernia, one of the two Armenia rapporteurs of the PACE’s Monitoring Committee, arrived for a high-profile presentation of the Armenian version of his book dedicated to the 45-nation assembly. Its translation and publication was funded by the leadership of the Armenian parliament, with speaker Artur Baghdasarian personally attending the presentation.

The book had previously appeared only in the Polish and English languages. Speaking to journalists at the event, both Baghdasarian and Jaskiernia denied any political motives behind the publication. The latter argued in particular that the book’s subject is irrelevant to Armenian politics.

However, opposition leaders claim that Baghdasarian’s gesture was aimed at influencing the content of a crucial report which Jaskiernia and the other rapporteur, Rene Andre of France, will submit to the PACE ahead of its summer session later this month. The two men are to inform the Strasbourg lawmakers whether the Armenian authorities have implemented the recommendations of their recent resolution on the political crisis in Armenia.

“I regard it as a bribe. I think that there are corrupt people in the Council of Europe and any other international structure,” Aram Sarkisian of the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) alliance charged.

“That person was given a present in the expectation of drawing up a corresponding document. They could have done it in the autumn, after the drafting of the document,” Sarkisian added.

The PACE resolution denounced the Armenian government’s heavy-handed response to the opposition campaign for President Robert Kocharian’s resignation, saying that it is “contrary to the letter and the spirit” of its earlier recommendations to Yerevan. It warned that the authorities must release all opposition detainees, scrap “unjustified restrictions” on anti-Kocharian demonstrations, investigate their “human rights abuses” or face the possibility of sanctions next September.

The opposition insists that the authorities have failed to comply with the resolution by continuing to arrest and imprison its activists and supporters. Armenian officials, for their part, have disagreed with the PACE criticism and say they are determined to prove the opposite. Jaskiernia and Andre are due in Yerevan on Friday on a fact-finding mission which will likely determine the content of their report.

The Polish lawmaker personally presented the draft resolution during a debate in Strasbourg on April 28. The initial version of the document contained language discouraging the Armenian opposition from challenging President Robert Kocharian’s disputed 2003 reelection with street protests. But that was dropped after strong objections voiced by some PACE members.

Nonetheless, Jaskiernia and the Monitoring Committee pushed through the assembly a passage saying that serious irregularities “did not decisively change the outcome of the elections nor invalidate their final results.” They also blocked opposition attempts to secure a PACE endorsement of a “referendum of confidence” in Kocharian.

(Photolur photo: Jaskiernia, left, during a visit to Yerevan in 2003.)
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