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Armenian Opposition Leader Upbeat on Prisoner Release

RFE/RL -- Armenian opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian has struck an optimistic note about the prospect of an imminent release of about a dozen members of his alliance currently in jail after politically charged trials.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Thursday just minutes before meeting Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland, Ter-Petrosian said that he believes “everybody will be released in the near future.”

“I cannot say precisely when, but there is no doubt that the process is on,” he added.

The opposition leader said that this and other concerns related to the state of democracy in Armenia would be addressed during his meeting with the Council of Europe’s official.

levon_copyThe latter has been in Armenia to attend a major forum focused on global issues of democracy organized by the Council of Europe.

Ter-Petrosian and his Armenian National Congress (HAK) have used the occasion to stage more protests in Armenian capital Yerevan, again demanding that the Armenian authorities immediately release their jailed fellow oppositionists whom they view as political prisoners.

The HAK and its leader have also been vocal in their criticism of the Council of Europe and its parliamentary assembly (PACE) over the lack of progress in the fulfillment by the Armenian government of the latter’s resolutions passed in the aftermath of the 2008 post-election clashes and the subsequent political crisis in the South Caucasus country.

“We have no other subject. Our subject is the subject defined by them. It is Resolution 1677. We will achieve the fulfillment of this resolution. Otherwise, this whole institution will be discredited. This is something that they, too, can feel already,” Ter-Petrosian emphasized.

“They felt somewhat satisfied after the amnesty [declared in Armenia in June 2009 in regards to some of the imprisoned opposition members], which they thought was something big that they had achieved and that’s why they even lowered the monitoring status,” said the Armenian opposition leader. “But I think that during the past year they, too, have made sure that their expectations have not been justified and that in fact the Armenian authorities have lied to them, have simply cheated them. I won’t quote anyone on that, but I know that this is what their mood is now. They feel cheated… and they will not tolerate that.”

“They [the Council of Europe] have a set of six sanctions to choose from to apply to a member country. They have already threatened to apply one, that is to strip the Armenian delegation of its voting rights, and by doing that they achieved that flawed amnesty. They still have stricter sanctions, up to expelling the country from the Council of Europe,” Ter-Petrosian concluded.

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