By Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia’s main opposition alliance will defy a government ban to hold what it has called a “decisive” anti-government rally in Yerevan on Friday, a top aide to opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian said on Thursday.
The Yerevan municipality banned the rally last week, citing police claims that it would degenerate into “mass disturbances.” It similarly refused to sanction Ter-Petrosian’s last two demonstrations held outside the city’s Matenadaran museum of ancient manuscripts on June 20 and July 4. But they still went ahead and were not marred by violence, with police making no attempts to disperse thousands of protesters.
Levon Zurabian, a close Ter-Petrosian associate, dismissed the latest ban, saying that it runs counter to Armenia’s constitution and laws. “We view those decisions as a mockery of common sense,” he told RFE/RL. “For five months the police have been presenting false reports to the municipality, claiming to have information to the effect that some provocateurs could spark riots.”
Asked what the organizers will do if the police try to prevent the protest, Zurabian said, “We will simply try to exercise our constitutional right. We call on the police to maintain public order and ensure the legal course cooperating with leaders of the movement.”
Addressing supporters on July 4, Ter-Petrosian and his opposition allies gave President Serzh Sarkisian until August 1 to release more than 70 opposition activists and supporters remaining in prison and to sack and prosecute senior officials responsible for the use of lethal force during the March 1 break-up of the post-election opposition demonstrations in the Armenian capital. They said the upcoming rally will be decisive for the success of their fresh campaign of anti-government protests.
Ter-Petrosian is also expected to officially announce on Friday the formation of his Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance. The former Armenian president hopes that it will bring together more than two dozen opposition groups that supported his 2008 presidential bid.
Zurabian would not say how many of those parties have agreed to join the HAK.