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Opposition Bloc Upbeat On Activist’s Release


Armenia - Davit Harutiunian (R), chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs, and opposition representative Levon Zurabian begin landmark talks between delegations headed by them, 18Jul2011.

Armenia - Davit Harutiunian (R), chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs, and opposition representative Levon Zurabian begin landmark talks between delegations headed by them, 18Jul2011.

The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) predicted the impending release of one of its activists remaining in prison on Tuesday after holding another round of negotiations with Armenia’s governing coalition.


“As a result of the discussion, I can say we are confident that the issue of change in Tigran Arakelian’s status will be quickly settled,” Levon Zurabian, the chief HAK negotiator, said after the meeting which lasted for more than five hours.

Zurabian would not say if coalition representatives explicitly pledged to secure Arakelian’s release. Davit Harutiunian, head of the coalition’s negotiating team, was also vague on that score.

“We seem to agree that the legal system has not acted in a discriminatory manner and our working group is confident that the legal system will continue to act in a non-discriminatory manner towards everyone,” Harutiunian told journalists.

Arakelian was one of seven young members of the HAK who were arrested on August 9 after clashing with police in disputed circumstances. He is facing up to ten years in prison on charges of assaulting police officers.

The six other youths are facing less serious accusations. They have been set free pending investigation.

The HAK has said that Arakelian’s imprisonment is a “serious obstacle” to its continued dialogue with President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration.

According to participants, the two sides again discussed the August 9 incident on Tuesday before switching to the main issue on the agenda of the talks: the HAK demand for the conduct of early presidential and parliamentary elections.

Harutiunian and other members of his team presented a 130-page statement drawn up in response to a similar document submitted by the HAK negotiators earlier this month. The latter thus tried to substantiate the HAK line that fresh elections are the only way of ending political tensions in Armenia.

“In my view, their document is much better than the one presented by the HAK,” Zurabian said of the coalition arguments with sarcasm. “Why? Because it much better substantiates the need for pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections in Armenia.”

“Right now we don’t see that any of the HAK arguments substantiates the need for pre-term elections,” countered Harutiunian

The HAK has repeatedly threatened to launch non-stop anti-government protests if the Sarkisian administration refuses to cave in. The opposition alliance is expected to announce its next steps at a rally scheduled for September 9.

“We are trying to maintain the constructive process,” Zurabian told reporters. “If we succeed, that will be fine. If not, you know what will happen.”
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