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Armenia: first positive signals will hopefully lead to an amnesty,
according to Parliamentary Assembly co-rapporteurs

Strasbourg, 05.05.2009 - "While it is too early to give a full
assessment of the effects of the changes to articles 225 and 300 of the
Criminal Code of Armenia, the first signals give reason for optimism"
stated the two co-rapporteurs with respect of Armenia, George Colombier
(France, EPP/CD) and John Prescott (United Kingdom, SOC), after the
discussions that took place last week in Strasbourg in the Monitoring
Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on the
recent political developments in Armenia.

The two co-rapporteurs were especially satisfied that the problematic
charges under articles 300 ("Usurpation of State power") and the old
225-3 ("mass disorder accompanied by murder") have been dropped by the
Prosecution in the cases against the 7 opposition members that are
currently in the Courts. "This confirms our view that the events on 1
and 2 March 2008, can not be seen as an attempt to a coup d'état. This
will hopefully help reduce the political controversy around the court
cases as well as the independent investigation into the events of 1 and
2 March 2008", they said.

While noting that questions have been raised about the decision of the
prosecution to charge the seven for having personally organised the mass
disturbances on 1 and 2 March 2008, the co-rapporteurs stressed that it
is now up to the courts to decide if these charges under the recently
amended article 225-1 can be substantiated. In that respect, Georges
Colombier and John Prescott welcomed the information they received that
the proceedings in these cases were well under way and expected to be
finalised in the near future. "It is in the interest of all that these
cases are concluded as soon as possible", they said.

However, they underlined again the Assembly's demand that that all
persons deprived of their liberty in relation to the events of 1 and 2
March, and who did not personally commit violent crimes, should be
released. "It is our strong conviction that the continued detention of
these persons undermines the possibility for a meaningful dialogue
between authorities and opposition and ultimately the normalisation of
political life in Armenia. Therefore, especially with the proceedings in
the courts coming to a close, we hope that the authorities will give
renewed consideration to our suggestion to declare an amnesty for all
those charged for the events of 1 and 2 March 2008", they stressed.

In this respect, they also highlighted the importance of the upcoming
local elections in Yerevan for the normalisation of political life in
Armenia". The fact that Levon Ter Petrossyan has decided to be a
candidate in these elections should be seen as a clear signal of the
Armenian National Congress that it wants to overcome the political
crisis and play its role as a political force in the democratic
institutions in the country. This should be strongly welcomed", stated
the co-rapporteurs. They therefore stressed that it is now of utmost
importance that the authorities, as well as all political stakeholders,
will ensure that these elections be held in full compliance with the
democratic standards of the Council of Europe.