Municipal authorities in Yerevan blocked on Thursday another attempt by the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) to hold a rally in the city’s historic Liberty Square.
The municipal administration already banned the alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian from rallying supporters there on September 17 for the first time since the March 2008 post-election unrest in the capital. It said the gathering would interfere with preparations for an annual festival held in the Armenian capital in October.
The Yerevan municipality refused to sanction another Liberty Square rally, which the HAK planned to hold on September 24, on the same grounds. It said the opposition bloc will not be allowed to stage a demonstration in the square at least until October 10.
“Holding a rally there would not be logically possible because it would interfere with events that are planned to be held there,” said Gagik Baghdasarian, the head of a municipality body dealing with street gatherings.
“I see an [anti-opposition] bias in your actions,” replied Tigran Arakelian, an HAK representative present at the public consideration of the second rally application lodged by the bloc. He repeated HAK allegations that President Serzh Sarkisian personally ordered the Yerevan Mayor’s Office to keep the square off limits to the country’s largest opposition force.
Baghdasarian rejected the claim. “If you see a violation of a particular legal clause, then you can go to court,” he told Arakelian.
The HAK already took the municipality to Armenia’s Administrative Court late last week. The court upheld the first rally ban on Tuesday.
While condemning these decisions as illegal and politically motivated, the HAK chose to comply with them and agree to a municipality proposal to hold the September 17 demonstration elsewhere in central Yerevan. It threatened on Friday to defy possible government bans on its further attempts to rally supporters in Liberty Square.