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Armenian Activist Says Officials Provoked Deadly Clashes

Nikol Pashinian
Nikol Pashinian
YEREVAN -- An Armenian opposition leader and newspaper editor on trial over postelection unrest says officials provoked deadly unrest in Yerevan last year by rigging the presidential election and persecuting opposition supporters, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Nikol Pashinian presented detailed allegations on December 21 during his trial on charges of provoking clashes between security forces and supporters of opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian following the February 2008 presidential election.

Ten people died and more than 200 others were injured in the violence.

Pashinian described what he said were officials' plans to provoke and disperse thousands of opposition protesters who barricaded themselves in central Yerevan on March 1, 2008.

"If the authorities really wanted to prevent clashes between police and people, they should not have attacked [the people] in the first place," he said during nearly three hours of testimony.

Pashinian, 34, was a leader of the antigovernment protests sparked by the disputed election, and he went into hiding after authorities declared a state of emergency and began mass arrests of opposition members.

The editor of the newspaper "Haykakan Zhamanak," Pashinian also defended opposition activists who clashed with riot police during an October 2007 incident.

The confrontation took place in Yerevan between police and a small crowd promoting Ter-Petrosian's first rally in the capital since his return to politics.

Pashinian and several other opposition figures were detained during the incident.

Pashinian alleged that from that day until the February 2008 election Armenian police regularly intimidated and arrested Ter-Petrosian supporters on the orders of high-ranking government officials.