By Astghik Bedevian
President Serzh Sarkisian may declare soon a general amnesty for dozens of opposition members and supporters remaining in prison, a senior member of his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) said on Monday.
Razmik Zohrabian, a deputy chairman of the HHK, told RFE/RL that opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian increased chances such for an amnesty and a dialogue with the government with his weekend speech in which he spoke out against staging an anti-government “revolution” in Armenia.
“I think that a general amnesty in the near future can be one of the points of dialogue,” said Zohrabian. “The fact that the opposition is, as was declared at the rally, going to follow the democratic and constitutional path inspires confidence.”
Ter-Petrosian and his opposition allies have repeatedly stated that they are ready to negotiate with the government on ways of easing political tensions in the country if the authorities release all “political prisoners” arrested following the February 2008 presidential election. Sarkisian has so far been willing to pardon only those oppositionists who plead guilty to charges brought against them and appeal for clemency.
According to Zohrabian, an amnesty is not the only way of ensuring their release. He indicated that the authorities could drop charges against the most prominent of the detainees after amending articles of the Criminal Code that deal with organization of “mass disorders” and “usurpation of state power.”
The Armenian authorities have pledged to enact such amendments ahead of the April session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). The PACE gave them in January three more months to comply with its earlier resolutions demanding the release of all oppositionists arrested on “seemingly artificial or politically motivated charges.”