Sarkisian’s Amnesty Refusal A Blow to Armenia’s Image, Says Rustamian

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–A leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation last Thursday expressed serious concern about the Council of Europe’s threats to impose sanctions on Armenia, saying that they would deal a serious blow to the country’s international standing.

“It is very possible that we will get sanctions,” Armen Rustamian, the chairman of ARF’s Supreme Council of Armenia, told RFE/RL. “Armenia’s reputation and image will be called into question for nothing.”

The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) was asked by its Monitoring Committee two weeks ago to suspend the voting rights of its Armenian members because of the continuing imprisonment of scores of opposition members arrested following last February’s presidential election. The committee for the first time described them as “political prisoners.”

Rustamian, who also heads the Armenian parliament’s committee on foreign relations, said President Sarkisian should have pardoned the jailed oppositionists months ago. He argued that the accusations leveled against them have “an inherent political subtext.”

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.

“A general amnesty would have been the best solution,” he said.

Earlier in July, Rustamian urged the Armenian government to issue a general amnesty to prevent a possible political and social crisis from erupting in Armenia.

Sarkisian has so far been willing to pardon only a handful of opposition detainees who confessed to the accusations mainly stemming from the March 1 deadly clashes between opposition protesters and security forces. He reportedly ruled out a general amnesty last week. A spokesman for Sarkisian’s Republican Party predicted on Monday that the PACE will not after all sanction Yerevan.

Artsvik Minasian, an ARF lawmaker sitting on a parliamentary commission investigating the post-election unrest in Yerevan, similarly called for a general amnesty earlier this month, saying that it would help defuse lingering political tensions in the country.

“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.”

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