The municipal authorities are persisting in refusing to allow the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) to hold rallies in Yerevan’s Liberty Square, a leader of the opposition alliance said on Thursday.
Levon Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the Yerevan municipality has banned the HAK from rallying supporters there for the 35th time in the last few months.
The pedestrian square facing the city’s massive Opera House has traditionally been Armenia’s main venue of major political gatherings since the late 1980s. It was the scene of massive demonstrations staged by HAK’s top leader Levon Ter-Petrosian before and after the February 2008 presidential election.
The square was closed for renovation following the March 2008 suppression of those protests. It was reopened for public access in May this year.
The Yerevan Mayor’s Office has since repeatedly blocked the HAK’s attempts to hold rallies in the square, forcing the opposition bloc to rally supporters in a less convenient location in the city center. It has cited different justifications for the refusals.
The HAK considers the bans illegal and politically motivated. But it has refrained from denying them so far.
According to Gagik Baghdasarian, a senior municipality official, rally which the HAK would like to hold on December 10 would interfere with preparations for New Year’s and Christmas celebrations to be organizations in the square. He told RFE/RL that it can not be made available to the HAK at least until January 13.
“Since December 10 is International Human Rights Day, holding a rally on that day has a symbolic significance for us,” said Zurabian. “Being terrified of that prospect, the authorities are not allowing that action on the most ridiculous, wretched and illegal grounds.”
Zurabian added that the HAK leadership has not yet decided whether it urge supporters to gather elsewhere in central Yerevan. “We will stage a march on that day, that has already been decided,” he said. “As for holding a rally, we have yet to make a decision on that.”
The opposition march was sanctioned by the municipal administration.