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Armenian Court Refuses To Lift Rally Ban

National Opera building on Liberty Square in Yerevan

National Opera building on Liberty Square in Yerevan

YEREVAN -- A Yerevan court has upheld the city administration's decision to ban the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) from holding a rally in the city's historic Liberty Square, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The HAK formally notified the Yerevan Mayor's Office last week of its plans to hold the first rally in the square since the March 2008 postelection unrest in which 10 people died.

The municipality refused to permit the planned September 17 gathering, saying that it would interfere with preparations for an annual festival to be held in October.

It said the opposition bloc, led by former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, has permission to stage the protest in a hillside square outside Yerevan's Matenadaran Museum of ancient manuscripts, which is Ter-Petrossian's erstwhile employer.

The HAK condemned the decision as illegal and politically motivated but chose to comply with the ban while pledging to challenge it in court.

Vahe Hovsepian, a lawyer representing the HAK, told RFE/RL shortly before the verdict was announced that he had "no expectation" of the court overturning the ban.

Asked why the bloc sued the municipality, he said: "When an illegal act goes unchallenged it gives rise to more illegalities."

Hovsepian said later that he will challenge the ruling in yet a higher court.

In a statement issued on September 3, the HAK said it "reserves the right" to defy possible bans on future protests in Liberty Square. It added that it will challenge such decisions in court and lodge complaints with the Council of Europe and other international human rights bodies.