Meeting with Armenia’s top security officials, prosecutors and judges, Sarkisian said he expects “new momentum and a pronounced activation” in efforts to identify and punish those responsible for the deadly street clashes between security forces and opposition protesters.
“Especially for me, this is a very important issue, and my demand addressed to you is to once again and more meticulously address even those circumstances where you think there can be nothing new,” he said. “Try to find new ways of solving those incidents.”
“A lot of time has passed; maybe there are people who were witnesses and didn’t want to cooperate with law-enforcement bodies at the time but have now different approaches. That’s also very possible,” he added.
The Armenian authorities have until now described the March 2008 violence, which left ten people dead, as an opposition attempt to forcibly seize power following a disputed presidential election contested by Ter-Petrosian. More than a hundred opposition members and supporters were arrested and jailed on highly controversial charges in the wake of the unrest.
Nobody was prosecuted and convicted for the deaths of eight protesters and two security personnel in vicious street clashes that broke out just hours after security forces broke up Ter-Petrosian’s non-stop protests in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. Investigators claim to have been unable to identify police officers who used lethal force on that day.
Ter-Petrosian and his Armenian National Congress (HAK) say this only proves that the authorities deliberately mishandled the probe. They insist that the administration of the outgoing President Robert Kocharian ordered security forces to shoot and kill protesters in order to enforce the official election results that gave victory to Sarkisian.
The conduct of a new and more objective inquiry into the worst street violence in Armenia’s history is one of Ter-Petrosian’s three key preconditions for starting a “dialogue” with the Sarkisian administration. Speaking at a recent series of antigovernment rallies, the HAK leader said the authorities should also free all of his supporters remaining in prison and guarantee opposition access to Liberty Square. Or else, they would face a new opposition push for power, he warned.
The authorities freed two more oppositionists last month, reducing to six the number of individuals regarded by the HAK as political prisoners. A senior member of ruling Republican Party of Armenia said on Tuesday that they too are likely to be set free soon.
The HAK was also allowed to hold its last two rallies in Liberty Square. The square had been off limits to the opposition alliance since the 2008 unrest.
Sarkisian’s latest comments were swiftly welcomed by the HAK. The bloc’s central office coordinator, Levon Zurabian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the president has thus met one of the HAK’s demands.