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Ter-Petrosian Sees Release Of Remaining ‘Political Prisoners’


Armenia - Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian addresses supporters in Hrazdan, 05Aug2009. Photo by Gagik Shamshian.

Armenia - Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian addresses supporters in Hrazdan, 05Aug2009. Photo by Gagik Shamshian.

Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian predicted the impending release of his supporters remaining in prison and pledged to continue to fight for leadership change in Armenia as he began a series of visits to the country’s regions on Wednesday.

“There is no nightmare in the world that has no end,” he told about one hundred opposition supporters in Hrazdan, a town 40 kilometers north of Yerevan. “All we need is unity and a continuation of the struggle. I don’t doubt that he will carry on till the end.”

Ter-Petrosian went on to condemn the authorities for their failure to free all of his loyalists arrested following the disputed presidential election of February 2008. Some two dozen of them remain in prison despite a general amnesty initiated by President Serzh Sarkisian in May.

Two of them, Sasun Mikaelian and Aram Bareghamian, are prominent residents of Hrazdan. They were sentenced to eight and six years’ imprisonment respectively for their role in last year’s deadly post-election clashes in Yerevan between security forces and opposition protesters.

Ter-Petrosian made a point of visiting both men’s families and giving them words of encouragement after addressing the people who gathered outside a church in the town’s Vanatur neighborhood where Mikaelian has long held sway. Many of them held the opposition parliamentarian’s pictures and chanted “Sasun! Sasun!” as they greeted the top leader of the Armenian National Congress (HAK).

“These [authorities] lacked the generosity to solve this issue at once and try to engage in dialogue with the people,” Ter-Petrosian told the crowd. “There was a change of the situation in May-June. The second change will happen this fall. This issue will be solved. Just be a little patient.”

The HAK leader did not specify what he thinks will change the political situation in the country. His broad-based opposition alliance plans to hold its next rally in Yerevan on September 18.

According to David Shahnazarian, a close Ter-Petrosian associate, the release of all jailed oppositionists is the HAK’s key objective at the moment. “The purpose of the trip is to again raise the issue of political prisoners in Armenia,” Shahnazarian told RFE/RL. “Today we have 22 political prisoners and our primary objective to ensure their release.”

Ter-Petrosian is expected to visit a dozen cities and towns across Armenia this month. Ter-Petrosian will head to the second largest city of Gyumri later this week.
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