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Opposition Leader Remanded In Custody


Armenia -- Arrested opposition leader Nikol Pashinian makes a victory sign as he is taken to a court in Yerevan on July 2, 2009.

Nikol Pashinian, a prominent opposition figure and newspaper editor, was formally remanded in pre-trial custody on Friday two days after emerging from hiding and surrendering to the Armenian police.

A court in Yerevan allowed law-enforcement to keep Pashinian under arrest for at least two months pending investigation into his role in last year’s post-election clashes in Yerevan. It ignored defense lawyers’ assurances that he will not obstruction the inquiry or again hide from the authorities. The lawyers said they will challenge the decision at a higher court.

Immediately after the deadly unrest, the 34-year-old editor of the pro-opposition daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” went into hiding to avoid prosecution on charges of organizing “mass riots” and unsanctioned demonstrations as well as defying “representatives of the state authority.” The charges are punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Under the terms of an amnesty declared by the Armenian authorities on June 19, only oppositionists sentenced to up to five years’ imprisonment in connection with the March 2008 violence are to be immediately set free. At least 15 of them remain behind bars as a result.

In a resolution adopted late last month, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) urged the Armenian authorities not to place Pashinian and other fugitive oppositionists under pre-trial arrest if they turn themselves in by July 31.

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