By Astghik Bedevian
A senior pro-government parliamentarian advocated on Wednesday a general amnesty for Armenian opposition members and supporters arrested following the February presidential election.
David Harutiunian admitted that the Armenian authorities have so far failed to fully comply with resolutions by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) demanding the release of opposition detainees prosecuted on “seemingly artificial and politically motivated charges.” Harutiunian, who heads the Armenian delegation at the PACE, singled out the Strasbourg-based assembly’s condemnation of court verdicts based on testimony given by police officers.
“I think the best solution in this situation would be an amnesty,” the former justice minister told reporters.
The PACE’s Monitoring Committee backed the idea of an amnesty when it discussed the political situation in Armenian during an October 2 meeting in Strasbourg. The committee said it remains “extremely concerned” about the continuing imprisonment of more than 70 oppositionists. It said it will meet again in December to decide whether to recommend the PACE to impose sanctions on Yerevan.
That recommendation will depend on the findings of Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights. Hammarberg is due to again visit Yerevan by the end of this month.
Harutiunian hinted that at least some of the detainees might be set free ahead of that visit. “I hope that very intensive developments will occur in November,” he said. “That will also be related to Mr. Hammarberg’s visit.”
Sarkisian was already expected to announce the amnesty when he addressed the Armenian parliament last month. But he did not even mention the issue in his speech.