Armenia’s parliamentary opposition Heritage party welcomes the release of its three leading members charged with organizing mass disturbances during last month’s protest, but demands that their controversial prosecution be stopped as well.
By separate decisions on August 17, 19 and 24, an appeals court in Yerevan granted bail to Heritage leaders Armen Martirosian, David Sanasarian and Hovsep Khurshudian, respectively, ordering them to pay between 1 million and 1. 5 million drams ($2,100-$3,150) to be released from prison pending trial.
The court, however, refused to grant bail to another opposition activist, Andrias Ghukasian, who was also arrested after the July 29 protest and also faces up to 10 years in prison on the same charge.
The lawyers of all four opposition activists claim the charges are politically motivated and are solely based on testimony given by police officers.
In a statement issued on Thursday Heritage demanded that “all political prisoners, including Ghukasian, be freed.”
The party noted that while its members were released on bail, prosecution against them is still in effect. It demanded that the “fabricated” charges against its members be dropped.
“It is this political persecution that made Heritage stop its campaigns in municipal elections in Gyumri and Vanadzor where the party has traditionally enjoyed a significant level of support,” the opposition party underscored in its statement.
Martirosian, who is Heritage’s deputy chairman, said on Thursday that in the coming days the party will discuss the issue of its participation in the local elections.
Heritage party leader Raffi Hovannisian, running for president as a self-nominated candidate in 2013, won overwhelming support of the voters in Gyumri and Vanadzor, which are Armenia’s second and third largest cities, as well as in a number of other major cities and towns across the country. Overall, Hovannisian officially polled about 37 percent of the vote, controversially losing to incumbent President Serzh Sarkisian.
Heritage currently has a four-member faction in Armenia’s 131-seat National Assembly as well as a minority faction in capital Yerevan’s Municipal Assembly.
Local elections are scheduled to be held in several hundred communities in all provinces of Armenia, except Yerevan, in September-October.