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Armenian Police Drop Charges Against Opposition Activists

Tigran Arakelian is greeted by fellow opposition activists after his release in October.
YEREVAN -- Armenian police have dropped the cases against three opposition activists due to a lack of evidence, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Tigran Arakelian and two other activists were cleared of "assaulting a representative of the state authority" after plainclothes police clashed in July with several members of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) who were publicizing a HAK rally to be held in Yerevan.

The three activists could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison if found guilty. Arakelian was the only one put in pretrial detention after being arrested and was held there until he was released in October for health reasons.

Hrach Sarkisian, a senior policeman who led the investigation into the incident, told RFE/RL on February 1 that the criminal case against Arakelian and the two others, who were never arrested, was closed because the suspects did not know for certain that they were clashing with police because they were not wearing uniforms.

Arakelian's lawyer, Vartuhi Elbakian, told RFE/RL that she is not satisfied with just the case's closure and believes her client should have been formally declared innocent. Elbakian said she would appeal to the prosecutor overseeing the inquiry and, if necessary, to a local court.

Armen Khachatrian, an HAK official who deals with arrested activists, also downplayed the police move. He said the opposition alliance plans to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to declare Arakelian's arrest and prosecution illegal.