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Armenia: Opposition Leader Reported In Custody

Yerevan, 26 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Our correspondent in Yerevan reports that Armenian opposition presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan was taken into custody today after parliament voted to strip him and seven other parliament members of immunity.

Our correspondent says he saw Manukyan, who was not present for the emergency session of parliament, being led away by authorities.

The vote to lift his immunity, which came four days after presidential elections, was unanimous with only two abstentions. Western news agencies report that the seven others, who were in attendance, were immediately led away by armed soldiers.

Troops and tanks were deployed outside parliament for the emergency session, called after demonstrators late yesterday stormed the building following what were then false reports of Manukyan's arrest. The government says the parliament chairman and his deputy were beaten by opposition protesters in what Interior Minister Vano Siradegyan later called an attempted coup. At least twenty demonstrators were injured in clashes with security forces.

Incumbent President Levon Ter-Petrosyan said in a televised address early today that new demonstrations have been banned. But before Manukyan and the others were taken into custody, the opposition said protests would continue.

Yesterday, the country's Election Commission reported that Ter-Petrosyan had won some 52 percent of the vote against some 41 percent for Manukyan in last Sunday's election. Four commission members dissented, supporting opposition claims of fraud.