By Karine Kalantarian
Three more citizens of Armenia controversially arrested during the disputed 2003 presidential election won on Tuesday lawsuits against their government filed to the European Court of Human Rights.
They were among hundreds of opposition supporters detained by the Armenian police for attending unsanctioned rallies staged in Yerevan staged by Stepan Demirchian, the main opposition presidential candidate. Two of them, Sarkis Amirian and Maksim Gasparian, were sentenced to ten days in prison, while the third plaintiff, Zhora Sapeyan, got off with a light fine.
The Strasbourg-based court found their arrest and prosecution to be in contravention of an article of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing freedom of assembly. It ordered the Armenian government to pay each of the three men 3,000 euros ($4,000) in compensatory damages.
Sapeyan is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence which he received last year for assaulting a pro-government heckler during a campaign rally held in his town of Talin by Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition candidate in the February 2008 presidential election. Sapeyan heads the local chapter of the opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party. Hanrapetutyun and other opposition groups allied to Ter-Petrosian consider him a political prisoner.
The European Court announced the verdicts just over a month after ruling on similar lawsuits filed by three other Armenians who took part in the 2003 opposition rallies and were jailed for ten days. It obligated the Armenian government to pay them 7,500 euros each.
The mass arrests in 2003 were carried out under Armenia’s Soviet-era Code of Administrative Offenses. The Armenian authorities amended the code abolish the practice of so-called “administrative arrests” in 2005 under strong pressure from the Council of Europe.
(Photolur photo: Demirchian supporters rally in Yerevan in 2003.)