A court in Yerevan on Tuesday upheld the municipal administration’s controversial decision to ban the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) from holding a rally in the city’s historic Liberty Square.
The HAK formally notified the Yerevan Mayor’s Office last week of its plans to hold the rally there on September 17 for the first time since the March 2008 post-election unrest in the capital.
The municipality refused to permit the gathering, saying that it would interfere with preparations for an annual festival held in the Armenian capital in October. It said the opposition bloc led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian can stage the protest in a hillside square outside Yerevan’s Matenadaran museum of ancient manuscripts.
The HAK condemned the decision as illegal and politically motivated. But it chose to comply with the ban, while pledging to challenge it in Armenia’s Administrative Court.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service shortly before the announcement of the verdict, Vahe Hovsepian, a lawyer representing the HAK, said he has “no expectations” that the court will overturn the ban. Asked why the bloc sued the municipality, he said: “When an illegal act goes unchallenged, it gives rise to more illegalities.”
Hovsepian said later that he will challenge the ruling at a higher court.
In a statement issued on Friday, the HAK said it “reserves the right” to defy possible bans on its further attempts to rally supporters in Liberty Square. It said it will challenge such decisions in courts and lodge complaints with the Council of Europe and other international human rights bodies.