The administration of a prison located near the central Armenian town of Sevan decided late Thursday to recommend the early release of its most famous inmate, Aram Bareghamian.
Bareghamian headed a regional chapter of a major political party aligned with the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) before being arrested in the wake of the disputed presidential ballot. He was sentenced to six years in prison for allegedly assaulting a police officer during the March 2008 unrest in Yerevan.
The prison sentenced was based on the policeman’s incriminating testimony. Both Bareghamian and the HAK leadership consider it politically motivated.
Arsen Babayan, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry department managing Armenia’s prisons, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the prison administration’s recommendation will be considered by April 5 by a government commission dealing with parole applications. A positive decision by the commission would have to be endorsed by a court.
Armenian courts have already granted parole to several HAK loyalists in recent months. Two of them were freed as recently as on March 17.
Their release coincided with the most recent HAK rally in Yerevan and a fact-finding visit to Armenia by two senior representatives of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). The latter urged the Armenian authorities to free all oppositionists who were controversially jailed after the 2008 election and remain behind bars.
There are presently six such individuals kept in various jails. Among them are former parliament deputy Sasun Mikaelian and Nikol Pashinian, the editor of the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily.
A deputy chairman of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) said on Friday that the authorities might soon free all jailed oppositionists, including Pashinian and Mikaelian.
“The time for their [eligibility for] parole is also approaching, and I think they will also get their turn,” Razmik Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “There will be no selective approach,” he said.
Speaking at the March 17 rally, HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian said he will be ready to negotiate with the Sarkisian government if it frees all “political prisoners” and promises an objective inquiry into the post-election violence. Ter-Petrosian said at the same time that the ultimate goal of that dialogue would be the conduct of snap presidential and parliamentary elections.