By Karine Kalantarian
State prosecutors said on Monday they will revise their grave accusations against seven arrested opposition figures in accordance with the latest amendments to Armenia’s Criminal Code.
The move led a court in Yerevan to adjourn their high-profile and tense trial until April 1. One of the trial prosecutors, Koryun Piloyan, told the court that the prosecution needs time to make changes in the controversial criminal case.
The Armenian parliament amended last week articles of the Criminal Code dealing with provocation of “mass disorders” and “usurpation of state authority by force” respectively, accusations leveled against the seven loyalists of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian that went on trial in December. The charges stem from the March 1, 2008 deadly clashes in Yerevan between opposition protesters and security forces.
The Armenian authorities undertook to amend these clauses as they managed to avert embarrassing sanctions by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in January. PACE officials construed that as an implicit pledge to release about 60 oppositionists remaining in jail. The Strasbourg-based assembly believes that many of them were arrested following the February 2008 presidential election on “seemingly artificial or politically motivated charges.”
The authorities say the amendments can be applied retroactively to the defendants. But they have yet to explain whether that could lead to their early release from prison.
The defendants’ lawyers, meanwhile, demanded on Monday that the prosecutors drop the case against their clients or at least set them free pending trial. “These people are being held illegally,” one of the lawyers, Vartuhi Elbakian, told RFE/RL. “Those articles don’t exist anymore.”