By Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia’s opposition led by former president Levon Ter-Petrosian has reiterated its plans to stage a rally later this week despite the refusal of Yerevan’s authorities to authorize it.
Levon Zurabian, a leading member of Ter-Petrosian’s Popular Movement, said on Wednesday that the rally will take place on Friday in the area adjacent to Matenadaran, an ancient manuscripts depositary in downtown Yerevan.
Earlier the opposition had planned its June 20 rally in nearby Liberty Square, the scene of the opposition’s nonstop post-election protests broken up by security forces in a predawn action on March 1. The municipality, however, had not allowed the rally to be staged in the square citing another planned event for the venue as the reason for rejecting the bid. Nor did the city officials grant the opposition an opportunity to gather near Matenadaran, as an alternative suggesting they gather in a small square near the capital’s largest football arena just off the city center. The opposition, however, rejected that offer out of hand.
“Our rally will take place,” Zurabian said at a press conference. “It is authorized under Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 29 of Armenia’s Constitution.”
An administrative court in Yerevan upheld the municipality’s decision in its ruling on Tuesday in a move perceived by the opposition as another evidence that courts in Armenia lack independence.
Since the March 1 deadly street clashes in Yerevan the municipal authorities have rejected just about every rally permission request filed by the Ter-Petrosian camp basing on controversial amendments to the law on rallies allowing the authorities to ban opposition protests practically at will.
“Remaining committed to laws and a legal manner of action, as well as interested in a normal holding of this political arrangement, we suggest that the authorities appoint municipality and police representatives who will be in contact with the leaders of the Movement and will ensure a normal course of the rally,” the opposition movement said in a statement.
The planned rally will come three days before the start of the session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg where the organization is expected to discuss Yerevan’s compliance with its resolution on the political situation in Armenia.