Fugitive Opposition MP Arrested


Radio Liberty
March 13 2008
Czech Rep.

Armenian law-enforcement authorities announced on Thursday the arrest
of one of the two opposition parliamentarians who went into hiding
following the deadly clashes between security forces and thousands
of supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Prosecutor-General said Sasun
Mikaelian was tracked down and detained by officers of the National
Security in an unspecified location in Yerevan on Wednesday. The
official, Sona Truzian, told RFE/RL that he was immediately
charged with organizing "mass riots" and attempting to overthrow
the government.

The charges stem from the March 1 clashes in Yerevan in which at
least seven protesters and one interior troop officer were killed.

The Armenian authorities say the violence was part of a coup plot
hatched by Ter-Petrosian and his allies. Dozens of them have been
arrested on corresponding charges.

As part of the crackdown, the government-controlled National Assembly
stripped Mikaelian and three other deputies allied to Ter-Petrosian
of their legal immunity from prosecution last week. Two of them,
Miasnik Malkhasian and Hakob Hakobian, had already been detained by
the police. The fourth lawmaker, businessman Khachatur Sukiasian,
as well as several other prominent oppositionists remain on the run.

Like Malkhasian and Hakobian, Mikaelian is a prominent veteran of the
war in Nagorno-Karabakh. All three men were elected to the parliament
on the ticket of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).

They defected from the HHK’s parliament faction and pledged allegiance
to Ter-Petrosian in the run-up to the February 19 presidential

Mikaelian’s capture raised to at least 97 the number of Ter-Petrosian
supporters jailed by the authorities since the election. The opposition
leader has described them as political prisoners.

According to his spokesman, Arman Musinian, the unprecedented wave
of arrests dominated Ter-Petrosian’s meeting on Thursday with Thomas
Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s visiting commissioner for human
rights. "Not only have the arrests not stopped but are continuing
today," Musinian told RFE/RL. He said Ter-Petrosian told Hammarberg
that some of the detainees have been ill-treated in custody.

But Truzian denied the torture allegations. She said Prosecutor-General
Aghvan Hovsepian assured Hammarberg that the law-enforcement
authorities are respecting the due process of law and giving all
detainees access to lawyers.

The Council of Europe official also met with outgoing President
Robert Kocharian. The latter was quoted by his office as defending
the use of force against the opposition protesters and promising to
"normalize the situation" in Armenia as soon as possible.

"I am concerned about the human rights situation in Armenia and the
consequences of the declaration of the state of emergency" Hammarberg
said in a statement issued before his trip to Yerevan. "It is urgent
to restore a situation where the activities of the media, political
parties and non-governmental organisations are not hindered."