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Sarkisian Offers Possibility Of Amnesty For Opposition Members

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian

YEREVAN -- President Serzh Sarkisian has said he will declare an amnesty for dozens of imprisoned opposition members if Armenia’s leading political groups prove there is strong public support for such a move, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Sarkisian's remarks come amid speculation over the possible release of some 55 supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian who were arrested and jailed following last year's controversial presidential election.

An amnesty can be initiated only by the president and needs to be approved by the National Assembly.

Speaking at the Sardarapat war memorial 40 kilometers west of Yerevan, Sarkisian called on public figures and political groups to submit proposals on the necessity and conditions of the amnesty. He said if a "desire" emerges as a result of their efforts, he will seek an amnesty.

Aram Sarkisian, a top representative of Ter-Petrosian's Armenian National Congress (HAK), told RFE/RL that "It's very bad that Serzh Sarkisian doesn't know his people's feelings and desires and is thus unable to assess the situation in the country."

"We have no need to appeal for anything. We ourselves will free our comrades," Aram Sarkisian added.

The HAK regards the jailed oppositionists as political prisoners, while the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) believes that at least some of them were prosecuted on "seemingly artificial or politically motivated charges."

PACE, which has threatened to impose sanctions against Yerevan if the detainees are not freed, is expected to discuss the issue in June.