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Armenian Class-Action Lawsuit Challenges Postelection Crackdown

Election protests in Yerevan on March 1, 2008
YEREVAN -- A senior Armenian opposition official says he does not expect a Yerevan court to accept a case filed by more than 100 supporters charging security forces with violations during protests two years ago that resulted in deaths and injuries, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The class-action suit filed by supporters of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) in a civil court on October 20 claims that the activities of the police, military, and national security service before and during the dispersal of street protests in Yerevan after the 2008 disputed presidential election constituted a violation of human rights, with deaths and injuries the consequence of those violations.

The complaint also cites other violations against demonstrators, such as restrictions on freedom of expression, movement, and assembly.

Riot police, Interior Ministry troops, and other security units surrounded Yerevan's Liberty Square at dawn on March 1, 2008, and cleared it from opposition supporters who had camped there for 10 days protesting the outcome of the election that Serzh Sarkisian officially won.

The opposition regrouped later in the day in another part of the city center and the standoff was continuing late into the night when then-President Robert Kocharian introduced a state of emergency citing casualties among security forces.

Ten people, including two security personnel, were killed and more than 200 others were injured in violent clashes that ensued.

Senior National Congress member Gagik Jahangirian, who served as Armenia's deputy prosecutor-general before joining the opposition in the middle of its street protests in late February 2008, doubts the court will accept the suit. But he said the goal of the filing is to force the authorities "to conduct a true investigation of the March 1 events."

"If our administrative court has the courage to acknowledge those violations, then I'd say it would be a very important factor for dismissing and reviewing all criminal cases involving our political prisoners, who have either served out their sentences or are still in jail," Jahangirian said, implying that such recognition will have far-reaching ramifications for the entire investigation of the postelection events.

He added that the lawsuit is on 12 pages and has numerous accompanying documents and video materials.

By law, the administrative court must decide whether to accept a case.

"I am sure they will decline our lawsuit, because that would be recognition by these authorities that the government and the president violated the most important rights and freedoms of the citizens of Armenia," Jahangirian said.