Aram Bareghamian, who headed a regional chapter of a major political party aligned with the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), walked free one month after the administration of a prison near the central Armenian town of Sevan recommended his early release. The recommendation was seconded later in April by a state commission dealing with parole applications.
Bareghamian was among more than a hundred loyalists of HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian who were arrested in the wake of the March 2008 unrest in Yerevan. He was sentenced to six years in prison for allegedly assaulting a police officer.
The prison sentenced was based on the policeman’s incriminating testimony. Both Bareghamian and the HAK leadership consider it politically motivated.
“Even the prison inmates recognized me as a political prisoner,” Bareghamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service moments after the court announced its decision. “I was brought here by illegitimate authorities because of my political views.”
The oppositionist said he will now strive for his acquittal by other courts and the punishment of police officers who he said gave “false testimony” against him. He also pledged to continue to fight for “regime change” in the country.
Bareghamian’s release reduced to five the number of Armenian oppositionists jailed in connection with the 2008 ballot. President Serzh Sarkisian indicated last week that they all will be freed soon as part of his overtures to the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition.
The HAK leader stressed the importance of this and other government concessions as he addressed thousands of supporters at a rally in downtown Yerevan on Thursday. He said the HAK is ready to start a dialogue with the Armenian authorities, instead of seeking another “physical confrontation” with them. Ter-Petrosian predicted that all “political prisoners” will be set free by May 28.
On Friday, parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian and other leaders of the pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament asked Sarkisian to consider pardoning Sasun Mikaelian, one of the most prominent oppositionists remaining in jail.
“His health condition is such that it allows for his early release,” Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), told RFE/RL’s Armenian service at the weekend. “I think the president will respond to our appeal,” Sahakian said.
The presidential press secretary, Armen Arzumanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the response will come “in due course.” He refused to comment further.
Ter-Petrosian’s spokesman Arman Musinian also declined a comment.