By Emil Danielyan
More than a dozen opposition parties have strongly condemned last week’s arrests of several supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and demanded that the Armenian authorities drop “baseless” criminal accusations leveled against them.
The five opposition activists, among them two newspaper editors, were formally charged on Tuesday with assaulting police officers who tried to stop their October 23 march in Yerevan. The demonstration, sanctioned by municipal authorities, was aimed at informing city residents about Ter-Petrosian’s upcoming rally in the capital. It followed the Ter-Petrosian camp’s complaints that none of Armenia’s major television stations agreed to broadcast paid advertisements of the event.
The police claim that the several dozen marchers interfered with traffic and disrupted public order by littering the streets with leaflets and disturbing residents. But organizers deny this, saying that they simply exercised their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
In a joint statement issued late Thursday, 11 opposition parties, most of them allied to Ter-Petrosian, also rejected the official version of events. “We declare that police actions against participants of the peaceful and legal march are illegal and blatantly violate human rights and civil liberties,” they said.
The statement demanded that the authorities end the “baseless criminal prosecution” and “hold accountable” the deputy chief of the Yerevan police who ordered a special police unit to use force against the demonstrators.
The police actions were also separately condemned by two other major opposition parties that have had an uneasy relationship with Ter-Petrosian and are unlikely to support him in the upcoming presidential election. One of them, the National Democratic Union (AZhM), said Armenia has had a poor human rights record and lacked rule of law “since 1988,” implying that Ter-Petrosian is also to blame for the existing situation.
While deploring the “illegal and unjustified use of force,” the National Unity Party of Artashes Geghamian, blamed on Friday the rising political tensions on both the authorities and “some opposition parties and their leaders.”