Kocharian Lifts Ban on ARF Overrules Decree

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Noyan Tapan)–The re-legalization process of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation was formally brought to an end as President Robert Kocharian Wednesday overruled a decision by his predecessor–banning the political party’s activities in late 1994. A decree signed by Kocharian said the suspension of the ARF’s activities was not legal and is no longer valid.

The ARF was banned on December 28–1994 by then President Levon Ter-Petrosyan on the grounds that it had harbored a clandestine terrorist group and its structure contradicted Armenian law. The ban was reaffirmed in the summer of 1995 when 31 members and supporters of the ARF were arrested on charges of plotting a coup. The ensued two trials–condemned by the opposition and human rights groups as politically motivated–found no link between the party and alleged terrorists and plotters–however.

Wednesday’s decree offered a justification different from that of the ministry of justice–that re-registered the ARF last February. The ministry ruled that the party had brought its structure and statutes into conformity with Armenia’s law on political parties–which prohibits foreign membership. It thus effectively reaffirmed that the ARF’s previous activities did not contradict the law.

The ARF–which has its branches in various parts of the world with large Armenian communities–in late 1996 gave its Armenia organization a high degree of autonomy from its central bureau currently based in Greece.

Observers say both the ban on and re-legalization of the ARF had political goals. The ARF was allowed to resume its activities shortly after Ter-Petrosyan–its arch-foe–resigned in early February under pressure from the cabinet of then Prime Minister Kocharian. It has since stood behind Kocharian–backing his presidential bid last March.

In an interview with RFE/RL Wednesday–ARF Executive Council of Armenia representative Vahan Hovanessian welcomed Kocharian’s decision and called it legally invulnerable. He said the move corresponds with Armenia’s "state interests" and is also "morally" important. He said the ARF has yet to decide whether to demand material compensation from the authorities for its confiscated property.

Hovanessian was recently appointed Kocharian’s adviser for political issues and public relations.

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