Kocharian Rules Out Early End to State of Emergency

Armenian President Robert Kocharian

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenian President Robert Kocharian told reporters during a press conference Wednesday that the state of emergency will not be extended nor reduced.
The implementation of the state of emergency was a necessity, he explained. According to Kocharian, had the emergency status not been declared, the number of killed or wounded would have been greater, and the negative consequences of the unrest, heavier.
The State of Emergency has been in effect since Sunday and it will be in effect for the entire duration of the twenty days, Kocharian said. The State of Emergency will only be lifted, he said, once the participants of the illegal actions are arrested and unable to attempt another action that will destabilize the situation further.
According to Kocharian, the law-enforcement bodies have a large body of evidence to piece together exactly what happened during Saturday’s clashes.
The volume of the initiated criminal case is "huge," he said and the investigating group will have to "work day and night." Kocharian told reporters that they will be kept abreast of the progress of the investigation by law-enforcement agencies.
The Armenian President stated that the people included in the criminal case may be divided into three conditional groups: organizers, members of groups who attacked policemen, and participants of the rally who were involved in looting and robbing stores.
"It is obvious that the level of guilt of the organizers, instigators of unrest and the ordinary participants is different, and the attitude of the law-enforcement bodies to them will be different," he said. "However, it will be the greatest injustice if in the first place the organizers and the instigators of the unrest are not found and held accountable."
"It is natural that special attitude will be demonstrated towards those who used arms and explosives against policemen," he added.
Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian has repeatedly turned down proposals by the authorities for a dialogue, Kocharian explained.
Throughout his rallies Ter-Petrosian rejected any possibility of a dialogue with the authorities, Kocharian stressed, adding, that immediately following the elections, President Elect Serzh Sarkisian stated his readiness to cooperate with all the political forces in the country.
"Everybody responded to the given proposal except Ter-Petrosian," he said.
"Levon Ter-Petrosian stated that he agreed to go and calm his supporters down, who had gathered at the square in front of the City Hall, if we fulfilled his conditions," Kocharian explained. "The conditions included: taking his supporters through the center of the city to the Opera Square, continuing the rally and receiving guarantees of unhindered conduct of the rally for 15 days. That is to say, it was an ultimatum," he added.
By the time Ter-Petrosian presented his conditions, the crowd had already burnt a few dozens of cars and attacked policemen.
"Imagine what would happen, if we allowed that crowd to move to the Opera Square through the center of the city," he said.
According to the President, the decision on emptying the square from the demonstrators was made as a result of furious resistance of the rally participants.
"I often ask myself whether or not we should have tolerated the illegal rally for ten days. I think that if the square was emptied on the second day, or the third, we would have avoided the situation we face today," Kocharian told reporters. "But the authorities did not take that step, since recount of votes was in process, and actions with the use of force could have been interpreted as pressure. We planned to take up active action only in case the illegal rallies continued after the verdict of the Constitutional Court," the Armenian President stated," he added.
Commenting Ter-Petrosian’s announcement that he plans to continue the rallies and demonstrations after March 21, Kocharian told reporters that the government will not allow protests to continue if they are staged illegally.

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