YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenian Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian on Friday announced that President Serzh Sarkisian will declare next week a general amnesty for opposition members arrested following last year’s Armenian presidential election.
Speaking to RFE/RL on Thursday, Abrahamian said that Sarkisian will make a statement to that effect on May 28, a national holiday. “It will be about a general amnesty and it will be on May 28,” he said.
Abrahamian made the same statement in a separate interview with the opposition daily “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun.” “Believe me, the president will declare a general amnesty on May 28 and your comrades will be free,” he said. “I promise you that.”
However, a spokesman for the influential speaker clarified the next day that Abrahamian simply “did not rule out the possibility of a general amnesty, expressing his good wish.”
“Under the constitution of the Republic of Armenia, it is the president of the republic who is authorized to make such a proposal, after which only the National Assembly can declare [an amnesty,]” the official, Nairi Petrosian, said in a statement.
Sarkisian’s office could not be reached for comment.
Some 55 associates and supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian remain in prison more than 15 months after the disputed presidential ballot. The vast majority of them have already been tried and sentenced on charges mainly stemming from the March 1, 2008 deadly clashes in Yerevan between security forces and opposition protesters challenging official vote results.
The Armenian opposition regards the jailed oppositionists as political prisoners, while the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) believes that at least some of them were prosecuted on “seemingly artificial or politically motivated charges.” The PACE has repeatedly threatened to impose sanctions against Yerevan if those individuals are not set free. The Strasbourg-based body is expected to again discuss the issue at its next session in late June.