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Former Armenian President Predicts Release Of 'Political Prisoners'

Former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosian campaigns for the release of 'political prisoners', who were in the 2008 post-election violence.
YEREVAN -- Former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosian says he is optimistic that those of his supporters still serving prison terms for their participation in the post-presidential election violence in March 2008 will be released very soon, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Ten people died in violent clashes in Yerevan in March, 2008, between police and Ter-Petrosian loyalists protesting official results that handed victory to his rival Serzh Sarkisian in the February presidential ballot. Dozens of Ter-Petrosian's supporters were arrested and jailed for their alleged role in that violence.

Many were released under an amnesty declared by President Sarkisian in June 2009. Approximately one dozen remain in prison. Ter-Petrosian's Armenian National Congress, which considers them political prisoners, staged a protest on October 19 to demand their release.

Ter-Petrosian told RFE/RL he planned to raise the issue of his jailed supporters at a meeting on October 21 with Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland.

Ter-Petrosian has criticized both the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) for failing to pressure the Armenian authorities to comply with PACE Resolution 1677 of June 2009. That resolution urged the Armenian authorities to do more to promote dialogue and reconciliation with the opposition, and to conduct an impartial and transparent investigation into the post-election violence.

Ter-Petrosian told RFE/RL that the June 2009 amnesty partly met the PACE demands.

"But I think that during the past year they, too, have realized that their expectations have not been fulfilled and that in fact the Armenian authorities have lied to them, have simply cheated them," he continued. "I won't quote anyone on that, but I know that this is what their mood is now. They feel cheated… and will not tolerate that."

He noted that the PACE retains the option of imposing sanctions on Armenia, such as stripping the Armenian PACE delegation of its voting right or even expelling Armenia from the Council of Europe.