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More Armenian Opposition Activists Freed

HAK spokesman Arman Musinian
HAK spokesman Arman Musinian
YEREVAN -- Two more members of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) have been released from prison pending investigation into their violent dispute with police in Yerevan last week, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

A Yerevan appeals court on August 19 overturned a lower court ruling that allowed the police to keep Sargis Gevorgian and Artak Karapetian in pretrial detention. But it rejected a similar appeal from Tigran Arakelian, the only HAK activist of the seven arrested last week who is still in jail.

"The court said that there are no sufficient grounds for granting Tigran Arakelian bail," his lawyer, Vartuhi Elbakian, told RFE/RL on August 19.

Arakelian was charged with three counts of assault and hooliganism, crimes that carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years. The six other HAK activists who clashed with police in disputed circumstances on August 9 are facing less serious charges.

All seven men deny police claims that they attacked police maintaining public order in the city center. They say they were beaten up and detained after the officers tried to arbitrarily search another man.

Stepan Voskanian, another lawyer for the opposition activists, said they refuse to give any testimony because "they don't trust the system."

"They clashed with police officers and naturally don't expect a fair and objective inquiry," he said.

The HAK, meanwhile, said Arakelian's continuing detention will impede its ongoing negotiations with President Serzh Sarkisian and his three-party coalition.

"Today we are stating that a serious obstacle continues to stand in the way of the dialogue," Arman Musinian, a spokesman for the opposition alliance, told RFE/RL.

Musinian did not specify whether the HAK will pull out of the dialogue if Arakelian is not set free soon.

"Time will tell what developments will occur, and we will act accordingly," he said.

Negotiating teams representing the HAK and the ruling coalition were tentatively scheduled to hold their next meeting on August 19. But the HAK announced in the morning that it was postponed until August 23 by mutual consent.

Vartan Bostanjian, one of the coalition negotiators, linked the delay with the appeals court hearings on the case held several hours later. Speaking to RFE/RL, Bostanjian also insisted that HAK representatives have not explicitly made further talks conditional on the release of all opposition activists arrested last week.

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