Two more members of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) arrested last week were released from prison on Friday pending investigation into their violent dispute with police officers in Yerevan.
Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that allowed the police to keep Sargis Gevorgian and Artak Karapetian under pre-trial arrest. But it rejected a similar appeal from Tigran Arakelian, making him the only HAK activist remaining in prison.
“The court said that there are no sufficient grounds for granting Tigran Arakelian bail,” his lawyer Vartuhi Elbakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Arakelian was charged with three counts of assault and hooliganism that carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years. The six other HAK activists who clashed with police in disputed circumstances on August 9 are facing less serious accusations.
All seven men deny police claims that they attacked law-enforcement officers maintaining public order in the city center. They say they were beaten up and detained after the officers tried to arbitrarily search another man.
Stepan Voskanian, another lawyer for the oppositionists, said they still refuse to give any testimony because “they don’t trust the system.” “They clashed with police officers and naturally don’t expect a fair and objective inquiry,” he said.
The HAK, meanwhile, said Arakelian’s continuing detention will impede its ongoing negotiations with President Serzh Sarkisian and his three-party coalition. “Today we are stating that a serious obstacle continues to stand in the way of the dialogue,” Arman Musinian, a spokesman for the opposition alliance, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Musinian did not specify whether the HAK will pull out of the dialogue if Arakelian is not set free soon. “Time will tell what developments will occur, and we will act accordingly,” he said.
Negotiating teams representing the HAK and the ruling coalition were tentatively scheduled to hold their next meeting on Friday. But the HAK announced in the morning that it was postponed until next Tuesday by mutual consent.
Vartan Bostanjian, one of the coalition negotiators, linked the delay with the Court of Appeals hearings on the case held several hours later. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Bostanjian also insisted that HAK representatives have so far not made further talks conditional on the release of all opposition youths.