Gabriel Gabrielian became the third jailed supporter of Armenian opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian to have been released on parole in the last several weeks.
The 51-year-old agricultural market worker was arrested in April 2008 and later tried and convicted of “organizing mass disorders” in what the government described as a botched attempt by the opposition to seize power. Like dozens of other opposition members and supporters Gabrielian protested his innocence during the trial. He spent the last seven months in a prison hospital.
“I am thankful to my people for fighting for my release. I was freed by my people… We are not and can not be broken,” said Gabrielian.
Mushegh Saghatelian, a well-known Armenian opposition figure and controversial former chief of Armenia’s prisons, was granted parole in late November after spending half of his five-year prison term on charges of carrying a knife and resisting police by violent means.
Earlier, Ashot Manukian, the jailed leader of the opposition Armenian National Movement’s local chapter in Armenia’s northern Lori province, was released under the same procedure in late October. Manukian had been convicted of using violence against a representative of the authorities during the 2008 unrest and sentenced to five years in prison.
Ten other Ter-Petrosian loyalists arrested following the February 2008 presidential election still remain behind bars. The opposition considers them political prisoners and demands their release by the end of the year.
In an earlier interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service Ter-Petrosian said he was certain that all of the prisoners would be released and suggested that the Council of Europe would step up pressure on Armenia in this matter.