President Serzh Sarkisian has asked the Armenian parliament to call another general amnesty that could lead to the release of two government critics regarded by their supporters as political prisoners, it emerged on Monday.
Officials in the National Assembly said that a corresponding bill submitted by the presidential administration says that the measure is dedicated to the 22nd anniversary of Armenia’s independence.
Details of the bill are not yet known. It will be made public only during upcoming debates on the parliament floor. The parliament’s committee on legal affairs is due to start discussing the proposed amnesty on Tuesday.
Sarkisian twice initiated such measures during his first term in office. The most recent amnesty declared by the Armenian authorities in May 2011 resulted in the release of more than 500 convicts. Nearly 2,000 others had their prison sentences shortened at the time.
The 2011 pardon followed a de facto ultimatum set by the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. The latter demanded that the authorities free several prominent HAK figures remaining in prison or face a renewed campaign of anti-government protests. All of them were released as a result.
Several dozen other supporters and members of Ter-Petrosian’s alliance, who were arrested during the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan, were set free following the previous amnesty declared in 2009.
A senior lawmaker from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the upcoming amnesty will extend to Tigran Arakelian, an HAK activist who was arrested in August 20011 and subsequently sentenced to six years in prison on what the HAK considers trumped-up charges.
The lawmaker said Volodya Avetisian, a retired army colonel who organized recent anti-government protests in Yerevan, is also likely to be freed. Avetisian was arrested earlier this month on fraud charges.