“By placing him in custody, the authorities once again have proved that they lack broadmindedness and are being guided by revenge in governing the country,” said Zharangutyun, reminding the authorities of their declarations ahead of last month’s general amnesty that it was a show of their philanthropy and humanism.
Dozens of oppositionists jailed and convicted in connection with Armenia’s worst post-election violence were released under the amnesty declared on June 19. The amnesty, however, still did not apply to 23 members of the opposition who still remain behind bars today.
The amnesty also gave several fugitive oppositionists until July 31 to turn themselves in and face trial and under its terms they will be set free if found guilty and sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Pashinian surrendered to Armenian police on July 1, but authorities refused to grant bail to him as he was remanded in pre-trial custody. He is charged with organizing “mass disturbances” and “unsanctioned rallies” as well as defying “representatives of the state authority.” The charges carry between four and ten years’ imprisonment.
Earlier this week, the National Press Club (NPC) also called for Pashinian’s release, expressing bewilderment over his continuing detention amid government declarations that “amnesty is a manifestation of goodwill and humanism.” The NPC also singled out Pashinian for his role “in the establishment of the Armenian press in the modern period.”
Zharangutyun on Thursday said it would continue to “regard Pashinian’s and other political prisoners’ detention as the continuation of the political vendetta by the country’s ruling group and Armenia’s failure to comply with the requirements of the resolutions of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) and its commitments.”
In a resolution adopted late last month, the PACE urged the Armenian authorities not to place Pashinian and other fugitive oppositionists under pre-trial arrest if they turned themselves in by July 31.
Another prominent oppositionist, Khachatur Sukiasian, had also hinted at his possible surrender by the set deadline.
Earlier this month, a group of lawyers representing the pro-opposition MP and businessman’s interests submitted a petition to the Special Investigation Service (SIS) for granting their client bail in the event of his surrender by July 31. Authorities, however, rejected the application.
Zharangutyun also expresses concern that the authorities will use its subordinate “justice” and law-enforcement systems to place Sukiasian in custody in the event of his surrender.
In its statement Zharangutyun also addresses the case of another jailed opposition newspaper editor, Arman Babajanian. It criticizes the authorities for showing indifference to the fate of Babajanian, who was diagnosed as suffering a brain tumor and whose health condition has sharply deteriorated in recent weeks.
The 33-year-old editor-in-chief of the “Zhamanak Yerevan” daily has less than two months on his 3 ½ year prison term to serve. Babajanian said he would not ask for parole anymore after his earlier applications for early release were repeatedly denied.
Babajanian also refused to be operated by Armenian surgeons and said he would travel abroad for the purpose after his scheduled release on September 16.