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Armenian Opposition To Hold Sit-In At Yerevan Square

YEREVAN -- An Armenian opposition group says it will proceed with plans to stage a sit-in at Yerevan's central square, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Armenia's Committee to Protect Political Prisoners said on June 14 it will hold the sit-in on June 18 in Liberty Square in support of opposition members who remain in jail.

The committee is linked to the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).

The Yerevan municipality refused to sanction the protest last week, saying the square was already booked for daily children festivals that started on June 10.

Committee member Vartan Harutiunian said the committee will defy the "illegal and arbitrary" prohibition. But he said protesters will not challenge police. "If they surround Liberty Square with police forces and try to provoke a clash, we will avoid a clash," he told RFE/RL.

In a related development, Yerevan police on June 14 questioned three HAK members over their involvement in scuffles with police who were blocking access to Liberty Square.

A police spokesman told RFE/RL that HAK foreign policy spokesman Vladimir Karapetian and two other activists had been summoned to the police department in Yerevan's Kentron district as part of a criminal investigation.

All three men refused to provide any formal explanations, saying it is the police who broke the law during the incidents near Liberty Square in late May and early this month.

The square had served as the main venue for political gatherings in Armenia until it was closed in mid-2008 due to the construction of a large underground parking garage. Small groups of HAK activists attempted to gather there for several consecutive days immediately after it was reopened to the public last month.