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Armenian Rights Group Urges Release Of 'Political Prisoners'

Opposition supporters rally in Yerevan to demand that the authorities release political prisoners and respect human rights. (file photo)
YEREVAN -- A coalition of nongovernmental organizations in Armenia is calling for the release of all jailed opposition members, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The Partnership for Open Society, which unites about 50 NGOs involved in civic activism, said in an annual report on March 9 that the continued imprisonment of the opposition activists is a major source of political instability in the country.

The group also criticized the government's overall human rights record.

"Tensions between the government, the opposition, and the public will continue as long as the government delays the release of all political prisoners and the restoration of their rights," the report said, referring to about a dozen jailed oppositionist activists.

They were among more than 100 supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrossian arrested following a disputed presidential election in February 2008. The authorities deny any political motives behind their prosecution.

The NGO coalition also accused the authorities of continuing to restrict freedom of assembly and speech and abetting human rights abuses committed by security agencies in 2010.

In particular, it denounced the government's continuing tight grip on the broadcast media.

The NGO coalition's report is aimed at assessing government actions stemming from Armenia's inclusion in the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) program, which offers it the prospect of closer partnership with the EU conditional on political and economic reforms.

The report concludes that Yerevan officials have largely failed to deliver on reform pledges given to the EU.

"It is clear that in terms of political rights, Armenia's citizens are not better protected than they were in 2004 when the European Neighborhood Policy was initiated," one of the reports authors, Boris Navasardian of the Yerevan Press Club, told RFE/RL.

"True, a lot of paperwork has been done," he said. "But what has changed as a result of that in terms of civil rights?"

Navasardian also disagreed with the EU officials' overall satisfaction with Yerevan's ENP-related actions. "They don't seem to have a clear idea of how to work with former Soviet republics," he said.