Amnesty for Jailed Oppositionists Still Possible

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A general amnesty for dozens of opposition supporters arrested following last February’s disputed presidential election would help defuse lingering political tensions in the country, a parliament deputy from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation said on Tuesday.

“A general amnesty is a manifestation of general human’sm, and I don’t exclude that the president of the republic will resort to that step,” said Artsvik Minasian, an ARF lawmaker sitting on a parliamentary commission investigating the post-election unrest in Yerevan. “It’s important that the step be speedy and thought-out.”

The Armenian authorities have been under pressure to release most of those detainees, with ARF lawmakers consistently urging President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration to declare a general amnesty to prevent a possible crisis from ensuing.

Earlier in July, Armen Rustamian, the chairman of Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Supreme Council of Armenia, urged the Armenian government to issue a general amnesty to prevent a possible political and social crisis from erupting in Armenia.

Some in the government fueled rumors in late September that President Serzh Sarkisian was readying to pardon the jailed oppositionists.

However, the president has so far confounded those expectations, granting individual pardons only to a handful of opposition activists who confessed to controversial accusations leveled against them.

Also, law-enforcement authorities have pressed ahead with the trial of seven of the most prominent detainees charged with plotting a coup d’etat. The trial is scheduled to start on Friday.

Some government officials and politicians have made a different interpretation of Armenia’s relevant laws, saying that an admission of guilt is a necessary condition for the oppositionists’ release.

But Minasian, whose party is represented in Sarkisian’s coalition government, told reporters that Sarkisian may have to declare a general amnesty and the opposition detainees should not have to plead guilty in order to qualify for a general amnesty.

Sarkisian discussed on Tuesday the fate of the individuals regarded as political prisoners by the opposition with Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, the visiting secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The presidential press service gave no further details.

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