Leaders of parliamentary opposition forces condemned the Armenian authorities on Monday for their continuing refusal to release a prominent activist who was arrested during an anti-government protest three months ago.
One of those parties, the Armenian National Congress, issued a statement reaffirming its view that the activist, Gevorg Safarian, is a political prisoner and again demanding his immediate release from custody.
“They want to suppress protest actions so that other young people don’t join them,” Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s parliamentary leader, said, commenting on an Armenian court’s decision last week to extend Safarian’s pre-trial arrest by 45 more days.
“Naturally, we can’t stay indifferent to such practices and are demanding the immediate release of Gevorg Safarian,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The authorities must also realize that this case is also becoming a problem for Armenia’s image abroad.”
Safarian was among several dozen activists of the New Armenia Public Salvation Front, a radical opposition alliance, who scuffled with riot police in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on New Year’s night. He was prosecuted on charges of assaulting a police officer which he strongly denies.
Zaruhi Postanjian, an opposition parliamentarian whose Zharangutyun (Heritage) party is part of New Armenia, also condemned the criminal case as politically motivated. “Had there been no political order [from the government,] they would not have asked the court to extend the arrest,” she said.
Safarian’s continuing detention was also criticized by Mher Shahgeldian, a leader of the opposition Orinats Yerkir party that was recently renamed National Revival Alliance. Shahgeldian attributed it to political factors.