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Armenian Official Criticizes PACE Envoys

Samvel Nikoyan described the PACE criticism as interference Armenia's court system.

Samvel Nikoyan described the PACE criticism as interference Armenia's court system.

YEREVAN -- A deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament has criticized senior officials from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for questioning a prison sentence given to an opposition activist, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

John Prescott and Georges Colombier, the two PACE rapporteurs monitoring the political situation in Armenia, said last week that they intend to raise the issue of journalist and opposition leader Nikol Pashinian's sentencing and the jailing of other opposition members when they visit Yerevan this spring.

Deputy parliament speaker Samvel Nikoyan said the rapporteurs' plan to raise the issue amounts to illegal interference in the Armenian judiciary's affairs. He said the country "cannot make court decisions a subject of discussion or disagreement."

A Yerevan court convicted Pashinian last month for his part in organizing the deadly March 2008 clashes in the capital between protesters and security forces. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Nikoyan, who headed an ad hoc parliamentary commission investigating the March 2008 unrest, was also dismissive of Prescott's and Colombier's recommendations to the Armenian authorities.

"We receive with a lot of gratitude and assistance, nice words and goodwill from abroad. But only we can best solve our problems," Nikoyan said.

Pashinian's sentence was one of the harshest handed down in trials of dozens of opposition members who were arrested following the unrest.

The sentence, which was condemned by the Armenian opposition and international human rights groups, disqualified Pashinian from a general amnesty declared by the authorities in June because it was so long.