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Armenian Opposition Rally In Key Yerevan Square Banned


An opposition activist holds a protest in Yerevan's Liberty Square in June.

An opposition activist holds a protest in Yerevan's Liberty Square in June.

YEREVAN -- Yerevan city authorities have banned the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) from holding a rally in a main square but will allow it to take place at another location, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The HAK has denounced the move as politically motivated but did not say whether it would defy the ban. The opposition alliance said it would clarify its actions on September 3.

The HAK formally notified the Yerevan mayor's office on August 30 of its plans to hold a rally in Liberty Square -- a traditional venue for political gatherings in Armenia -- for the first time in more than two years.

In a written reply made public late on September 1, city officials rejected the application, saying the square would not be available for any gatherings because of preparations for an annual festival held in October.

It said the opposition bloc could hold the rally in another square facing the Matenadaran Museum of ancient manuscripts. It also allowed HAK supporters to march through the city center.

The HAK bloc, which is led by former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, has had to gather its followers outside Matenadaran ever since the bloody break-up of its nonstop demonstrations in Liberty Square following the disputed February 2008 presidential election.

Levon Zurabian, the HAK's central office coordinator, claimed that President Serzh Sarkisian personally ordered the Yerevan municipality to keep the square off-limits to the Armenian opposition.

"The authorities are terrified that the opposition wants to again hold a rally in Liberty Square and are doing everything to prevent any public event in the square on ridiculous grounds," he told RFE/RL.

Zurabian said that "regarding the making of a concession as an end to your power is a dictator's mentality. And so they are not ready to make any concessions."

Zurabian said the city's decision was made in "blatant violation" of a law that stipulates that a street gathering can be banned only if it clashes with another public event planned beforehand. He argued that the city administration announced no plans to use the square on September 17 before the HAK's request.

But Gagik Baghdasarian, a senior city official responsible for the matter, insisted on the legality of the ban. "The municipality couldn't inform itself of its plans," he told RFE/RL.
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