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Jailed Armenian Editor Barred From Running For Parliament

Nikol Pashinian at an opposition rally in February
Nikol Pashinian at an opposition rally in February
Armenian authorities have barred Nikol Pashinian, an outspoken opposition figure and newspaper editor, from standing in an upcoming parliamentary by-election, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Pashinian's lawyer, Lusine Sahakian, said on November 9 that she will appeal the "illegal and illogical" decision.

Pashinian, editor of the daily "Haykakan Zhamanak," announced he would contest the January 10 vote late last month, less than two weeks after going to trial on charges of organizing "mass disturbances" during the March 1, 2008, postelection demonstrations.

The protests ended with 10 people dead and more than 200 others injured.

The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), of which Pashinian is a member, was quick to endorse his candidacy.

Under Armenian law, only citizens who have permanently resided in the country for at least five years before an election can run for the National Assembly.

In a written statement, the Department of Passports and Visas (OVIR) in Pashinian's native town of Ijevan said Pashinian was absent from the country from February 26, 2008, to July 7, 2009, and is therefore ineligible to run for parliament.

But that information contradicts the fact that Pashinian was one of the main speakers at daily opposition rallies forcibly ended by security forces
in the early hours of March 2, 2008.

OVIR chief Norayr Muradkhanian acknowledged the factual error last week, saying that the statement issued by his colleagues in Ijevan was based on "incomplete information."

Sahakian insisted, however, that her client never left the country and that it falls on the police to prove otherwise.