FUGITIVE OPPOSITIONIST SURRENDERS TO ARMENIAN POLICE

AZG Armenian Daily
02/07/2009

Local

Pashinian, 34, was one of the most influential and passionate speakers
at the anti-government protests staged by opposition leader Levon
Ter-Petrosian. He and several other opposition figures went underground
following the violent suppression of those protests on March 1-2,
2008. The authorities have tried unsuccessfully to track down and
arrest them, Azatutyun reports.

In a statement posted on his website last week, Pashinian said he
has decided to come out of hiding and become a "political prisoner"
after a general amnesty declared by the Armenian authorities on June
19. About 30 oppositionists jailed following the March 2008 unrest
have been set free as a result.

"They will arrest me shortly and I will then be remanded in [pre-trial]
custody," Pashinian told journalists at the entrance to Armenia's
Office of the Prosecutor-General. "They will then sentence me to as
many years in prison as possible."

"I will continue my struggle in prison," he said before being
escorted to the police department of Yerevan's Kentron district. He
was transferred to a maximum security prison, also located in the
city center, later in the day.

Neither state prosecutors, nor the Armenian police issued any
statements in connection with Pashinian's surrender as of Wednesday
evening. The young editor of the "Haykakan Zhamanak" daily has been
wanted by them on charges of organizing unsanctioned rallies and
"mass riots" and defying "representatives of the state authority." The
charges carry between four and ten years' imprisonment.

Under an amnesty bill approved by parliament, only oppositionists
sentenced to up to five years' imprisonment are to be set free. The
biggest worry of Pashinian's friends and associates is that the
firebrand activist, who has subjected the Armenian security apparatus
to relentless criticism, will be ill-treated in custody. Some of
them gathered outside the Kentron police headquarters in a show of
solidarity with him.

"I am confident that with the help of ourselves and all those people
who have stood by the detainees, the issues of Nikol's liberation and
restoration of justice will be solved soon," said Vahagn Khachatrian,
a former Yerevan mayor who himself spent several months in hiding
last year.

"Nikol Pashinian has proved that there is no competent national
security service and police in Armenia," said David Matevosian, one
of the opposition figures released from prison last week. "Common
sense and the latest Council of Europe resolution suggest that the
authorities are obliged to free Nikol."