By Astghik Bedevian

Radio Liberty, Czech Republic
Jan 31 2008

Three pro-government members of Armenia's parliament were on Thursday
reportedly trying to secure the release of four supporters of Levon
Ter-Petrosian arrested for assaulting a man who heckled the former
president during a campaign rally.

The arrested men are opposition activists residing in the central town
of Talin where Ter-Petrosian and his allies rallied hundreds of people
on Sunday. The local police detained them on Tuesday on suspicion of
throwing punches at a local man who shouted at the opposition candidate
during the gathering that "the people of Talin are not with you."

The detainees' lawyer, Hovik Arsenian, told RFE/RL that he thinks
his clients will be formally charged with "hooliganism" on Friday
and face the possibility of spending up to five years in prison. The
police launched the criminal investigation into the incident Monday
under another article of the Criminal Code that carries much softer

The Ter-Petrosian campaign has described the incident as a government
"provocation" and demanded the immediate release of its local
loyalists. The latter issued a joint statement from police custody
on Thursday, saying that Talin resident Sarkis Karapetian was only
"led away from the site of the meeting" by people furious with his
"disrespectful remarks."

Karapetian, meanwhile, held a news conference in Yerevan to defend the
prosecution of his alleged assailants. Karapetian, who is a staunch
government supporter, also denied allegations by the Ter-Petrosian
campaign he was paid by the authorities to disrupt the rally. "I am
not a provocateur and didn't plan to do that," he said.

"It was a spontaneous action."

Two parliament deputies affiliated with the opposition Zharangutyun
party visited the detainees on Wednesday and tried unsuccessfully
to have them set free. Three other lawmakers loyal to the government
visited Talin for the same purpose on Thursday.

Like Karapetian and the detained activists, they are veterans of
the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Two of them, Sasun Mikaelian and Hakob
Hakobian, are affiliated with the parliament faction of Prime Minister
Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).

Mikaelian and the third parliamentarian, Rustam Gasparian, are also
leading members of the influential Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war

They were meeting with local Yerkrapah leaders behind the closed
doors as of late evening. The local Ter-Petrosian campaign chief,
Hayk Atanesian, told RFE/RL that they are discussing ways of ensuring
the oppositionists' release.

Mikaelian made a point of warmly welcoming Ter-Petrosian last week
during the latter's campaign trip to his constituency in the central
Kotayk region.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress