By Astghik Bedevian
Municipal authorities in Yerevan have banned a rally which the Armenian opposition plans to hold in the city center on the first anniversary of the March 1 deadly clashes sparked by the 2008 presidential election.
The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Monday formally notified the Yerevan mayor’s office about its intention to rally supporters outside the Matenadaran institute of ancient manuscripts or Northern Avenue. They would then march to the scene of the clashes between security forces and opposition protesters that left ten people dead.
Under Armenia’s law on public gatherings, the municipality has three days to accept or reject an application from rally organizers. Its failure to respond to applicants in writing within the 72-hour period amounts to an official authorization of a demonstration.
A statement posted on its website said the municipality has decided not to allow the rally in the mentioned locations and suggested an alternative venue for the planned protest just outside downtown Yerevan. It said a representative of the Hanrapetutyun party, which applied for a rally permission on behalf of the HAK, was informed about the decision late Wednesday. No explanation was given for the ban.
Artak Zeynalian, the Hanrapetutyun representative, denied receiving any letters from the mayor’s office. “Since we did not get a copy of the decision about the rejection of our application within 72 hours we consider our desire to hold a rally by the Matenadaran to have been accepted,” Zeynalian told RFE/RL. The March 1 rally will therefore go ahead and will be followed by a march through the city center, he said.