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Armenian President Expected To Pardon Jailed Oppositionists

Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian
Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian
YEREVAN -- Armenian parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian has said that President Serzh Sarkisian will declare an amnesty next week for opposition members and dozens of supporters who were arrested following Armenia's disputed February 2008 presidential election.

Abrahamian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that Sarkisian will make a statement on this issue on May 28, a national holiday. He said, "it will be about a general amnesty and it will be on May 28."

Abrahamian, a leading member of Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), did not specify whether the amnesty will apply to all of the some 55 supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian who are still in prison.

Six of the detainees, among them three members of parliament, are currently facing separate trials for allegedly organizing the March 2008 "mass disturbances" that left 10 people dead and more than 200 others injured.

They were initially also accused of attempting to overthrow the government by force, but state prosecutors dropped the coup charges earlier this year.

Ter-Petrossian and his Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance regard the jailed oppositionists as "political prisoners," while the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) believes that at least some of them were prosecuted on "seemingly artificial or politically motivated charges."

The PACE has repeatedly threatened to impose sanctions against Yerevan if those individuals are not set free. The Strasbourg-based body is expected to again discuss the issue at its next session in late June.