BAKU: Armenian Authorities Must Release Political Prisoners: U.S. As


Trend News Agency
July 30 2008

Azerbaijan, Baku, 30 July /Trend News corr. A.Gasimova/ The U.S. State
Department calls on the Armenian authorities to release political
prisoners and to conduct an investigation into the March 1-2 events
that followed presidential elections in Armenia.

"I urged the authorities to release all individuals detained for
engaging in opposition activities or for expressing their political
views; conduct a credible, independent investigation into the March
1-2 violence that left ten dead; fully restore freedoms of assembly
and media; and initiate a constructive dialogue with the opposition
and civil society," David J. Kramer, Assistant Secretary of State
for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor said Before the Commission on
Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Armenian opposition headed by country’s first president Levon
Ter-Petrosyan, who ran for presidency but lost to Serzh Sargsyan,
launched demonstrations in Yerevan on 20 February to protests against
the results of the voting. On 1-2 March, the protest resulted in
riots and clashes between police and demonstrators leaving 10 dead
and 265 wounded.

"Time is of the essence. Societal tensions will only increase if the
authorities fail to take swift, dramatic, and substantive measures
to heal the serious divisions in the country that the presidential
election and its violent aftermath exacerbated," said Kramer.

According to Kramer, While all elements of society have an obligation
to engage in constructive dialogue and to act responsibly, the
heaviest responsibility lies with those who actually hold power –
the government.

"It is in the interest of the U.S.-Armenia bilateral relationship and
in the interest of the Armenian people to see the new government in
Yerevan succeed in deepening Armenia’s democratic development. On a
positive note, I found the Ombudsman to be playing an important role
on behalf of democratic reform in the country," said Kramer.