Armenian president pardons 16 over deadly unrest

Reuters, UK
Jan 24 2009

Armenian president pardons 16 over deadly unrest
Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:00pm EST

YEREVAN, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan on
Saturday pardoned 16 people jailed over violent opposition protests
after his election last year, going some way to placating European
rights groups.

More than 100 people were arrested during a state of emergency imposed
after 10 people were killed in the March unrest, drawing concern from
rights groups over the strength of the government crackdown in the
former Soviet republic.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, due to sit next
week, will rule on a motion by the Assembly’s Monitoring Committee to
suspend Armenia’s voting rights.

The committee said ahead of the session that considered unacceptable
"that persons could be charged and deprived of their liberty for
political reasons".

Around 100 people were convicted on charges stemming from the
violence, and 52 received jail sentences. A number have already been

The president’s press service said the pardon had taken into account
"requests from these people, the fact they have no previous
convictions, details of the criminal cases and their family
circumstances and state of health."

The 16 had been sentenced to between two and three years in jail.

Former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanyan and six other opposition
figures remain on trial accused of orchestrating the unrest and trying
to overthrow the government.

The opposition said the February presidential election had been
rigged. Western election monitors said it was broadly in line with the
country’s international commitments but that further improvements were
necessary. (Reporting by Hasmik Lazarian; Writing by Matt Robinson;
Editing by Jon Boyle)