By Anna Saghabalian
The Armenian opposition reaffirmed on Friday its plans to launch next week a new campaign for leadership change in the country, pointing to the government’s failure to release all “political prisoners” and make other overtures to its opponents.
The Armenian National Congress (HAK), an alliance of 16 opposition groups led by Levon Ter-Petrosian, said its next rally in Yerevan, scheduled for September 12, will kick off “the decisive phase of the popular struggle against the dictatorship.”
“Political prisoners, torture, restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, an unelected and thieving government, a humiliating situation, a future without prospects. These are phenomena the Armenian people will never put up with. We will show that to the dictatorship on September 12,” the HAK said in a statement.
Levon Zurabian, a close Ter-Petrosian associate and an HAK leader, said the authorities have left the opposition with no choice but to resume “massive” street protests that rocked Armenia following last February’s disputed presidential election. He singled out the continuing imprisonment of 75 opposition supporters and politicians whom the HAK regards as political prisoners.
The vast majority of them were prosecuted in connection with the March 1 unrest in Yerevan. The Armenian authorities insist that none of these individuals, among them three members of parliament, were jailed for political reasons.
The Council of Europe and major Western governments think otherwise, however. Council of Europe officials have warned that failure to release all political prisoners would jeopardize Armenia’s continued membership in the Strasbourg-based organization.
Neither Zurabian, nor the HAK statement specified the actions that the opposition plans to take after September 12.
Ter-Petrosian on Monday appeared to guard against excessive expectations from his fresh bid for regime change, saying that its failure should not mean “the end of the world” to opposition supporters. He also stated that both the opposition and the government are “in deadlock” after months of bitter confrontation.
In Zurabian’s words, the planned opposition actions are meant to end that deadlock. “This is the only way out of the situation,” he told reporters. “This is a deadlock we did not want to be in.”
(Photolur photo: Levon Zurabian.)