Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Anniversary of Armenian Political Unrest News

March 1 2009
Armenian protesters mark year since deadly riots
Sun Mar 1, 2009 10:02am EST

* Rally to remember dead protesters
* Opposition leader demands early elections
* President lights candles in memory of dead

By Hasmik Mkrtchyan

YEREVAN, March 1 (Reuters) - At least 10,000 anti-government
protesters in Armenia on Sunday demanded early elections at a
demonstration to mark one year since deadly clashes between police and
opposition activists in the former Soviet republic.

Rights groups and the Armenian opposition accuse President Serzh
Sarksyan and his government of pursuing politically motivated trials
over the unrest and failing to investigate accusations the police used
excessive force.

The violence followed the election of Sarksyan in a vote the
opposition said was rigged. Ten people died, including two police
officers. More than 100 people were arrested during a state of
emergency imposed after the violence.

The crowd in Yerevan held a minute's silence and carried banners
calling for early elections and "Freedom for political prisoners."
Riot police looked on as protesters chanted "Victory!" and "Freedom!"

"The authorities have drawn no conclusions from these tragic events
and have done nothing to establish democracy in the country," said
opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan, Sarksyan's challenger in the

"Despite constant pressure from the government, the people are
stronger, are not frightened and are ready to continue the struggle,"
Ter-Petrosyan told the crowd. He promised another demonstration in

Yerevan's mayor had denied permission for demonstrators to gather in
the city centre, but the protest went ahead after talks with the

Armenia's next parliamentary election is due in 2012 and the
presidential vote in 2013.


The country's leaders say they want to build a European-style
democracy and have won Western praise for allowing contested
elections. But opponents say it is a facade and the country is ruled
by a clique.

Armenia is considered Russia's closest ally in the volatile South
Caucasus, but it has also pursued ties with NATO.

"This is a chance to change something here," said protester Artush
Dazikyan, a 53-year-old worker.

Demonstrators marched through the capital and laid flowers at the spot
where the worst clashes took place.

More than 50 people received jail sentences for the violence. A number
have since been pardoned but several senior opposition figures,
including a former foreign minister, remain on trial. The authorities
accused the opposition of trying to overthrow the government.

Western election monitors said the vote was broadly in line with the
country's international commitments but that further improvements were

The president's office said on Sunday Sarksyan had lit candles at a
church in Yerevan in memory of those killed.

New York-based Human Rights Watch on Wednesday accused Armenia of
conducting "politically motivated" trials while ignoring evidence of
excessive use of force and ill-treatment of detainees. (Writing by
Matt Robinson in Tbilisi; Editing by Matthew Jones)

March 1, 2008 victims commemorated in Yerevan
01.03.2009 19:51 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Some 15-20 thousand gathered at Matenadaran today to
commemorate the victims of March 1, 2008 disorders. Addressing the
action participants Levon Zurabyan, coordinator of the Armenian
National Congress, read out the names of those killed.

Taking the floor, head of the Armenian National Congress, Armenia's
first President Levon Ter-Petrosyan said that the opposition will
carry on legal struggle and called to exclude the terms 'revolution'
or 'rebel' form the opposition's plans.

At that, he did not rule out that the government will fail to cope
with the consequences of the global financial crisis and resign.

Noting that it's not the time for indefinite-term protest actions, he
informed that the next opposition rally will be held in May 1.

Then the action participants marched to the monument to Alexander
Miasnikian and laid flowers to commemorate those killed at the site in
last year's melee.

Armenian protesters defy ban with rally to mark anniversary of killings
Opposition members died as they demonstrated against allegedly rigged

Duncan Campbell,
Friday 27 February 2009 14.08 GMT

A year after 10 people were killed in an anti-government protest in
Armenia, members of the opposition are due to defy a ban and take to
the streets of the capital, Yerevan, on Sunday.

The protest comes as seven men, including a former foreign minister,
are on trial for "usurping state power" in connection with last year's

The Armenian National Congress (ANC), which consists of 18 parties and
a number of civic groups under the leadership of former president Levon
Ter-Petrossian, plans to hold a rally and march despite the
government's prohibition of such protests in the former Soviet republic.

An ANC spokesperson said the event was designed to mark the first
anniversary of the demonstration during which police opened fire and
eight demonstrators, a police officer and an army cadet were killed.
The protest had been going for 10 days, expressing anger about the
allegedly rigged elections that brought the current government to power.

"In violation of the Armenian constitution, the authorities have
illegally banned both the rally and the march," said the spokesperson
for the ANC, the country's major opposition grouping. "The ANC intends
to hold the rally and the march, in accordance with the law,
notwithstanding the government's unconstitutional prohibition."

The march will also be in protest against a series of trials of
demonstrators resulting from last year's events ` 58 people are in jail
as a result of the protests.

In the main trial after the protests, Alexander Arzoumanian, the former
foreign minister, and six others are in court in Yerevan charged with
usurping state power and organising a mass uprising, offences that
carry lengthy sentences.

John Prescott, the former British deputy prime minister, and Georges
Colombier, who are co-rapporteurs on Armenia for the parliamentary
assembly of the Council of Europe, have expressed concern about the
refusal of the authorities to allow the rally.

Human Rights Watch this week criticised the Armenian government over
the trials resulting from last year's protests. "The Armenian
authorities' response to the March 1 events has been one-sided," it
said in a report.

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