Maybe That WAS Pashinyan Behind the Bullhorn March 1: Armenian court gives radical oppositionist the benefit of the doubt

Maybe That WAS Pashinyan Behind the Bullhorn March 1: Armenian court gives radical oppositionist the benefit of the doubt

Pashinyan or not Pashinyan?

An administrative court in Yerevan on Friday granted the case of a controversial oppositionist against Police OVIR that had refused to give him proof of his five-year permanent residence in Armenia citing the fact that he was in hiding for 16 months to avoid arrest on March 1, 2008 unrest-related charges.

Nikol Pashinyan, now in jail as his trial in which he stands accused of organizing last year’s deadly post-election clashes continues, needs this document to run for MP in a by-election occasioned by the vacancy of another former opposition fugitive, Deputy Khachatur Sukiasyan. (Sukiasyan was briefly detained after turning himself in to authorities in September. He is now out of the country, after being allowed to leave for medical treatment.)

The court on Friday found reasonable the argument of the Pashinyan counsel that his hiding from authorities did not necessarily mean he was outside the country.

The Pashinian side, in particular, had challenged the justice system by insisting that if that were the case, besides prosecuting him for his alleged role in the deadly post-election clashes, the Police should also have charged him with an illegal crossing of the border (since he had no entry or exit visa stamps in his passport). Meanwhile, no such charge has been leveled at Pashinyan.

Besides, the plaintiff had said, the official document about his being in hiding from February 26, 2008 to July 7, 2009 and outside Armenia “excluded his participation in the March 1-2, 2008 events” and, therefore, relieved him of the related charges.

Pashinyan, editor of the ultra-oppositional Haykakan Zhamanak (Armenian Times) daily, enjoys the backing of Armenia’s main opposition Armenian National Congress. The ANC, led by Levon Ter-Petrosyan, said it was interested in using the election race to attract public attention to the problems of “political prisoners in Armenia”.

Among Pashinyan’s possible rivals are former transport and communications minister Eduard Madatyan, Dashnaktsutyun member Rafael Ayvazyan, political analyst Hmayak Hovhannisyan, Marxist Party leader David Hakobyan, National Unity’s Ara Simonyan and actor Vladimir Kostanyan.

(Police had also refused to grant Madatyan proof of his residence qualification as several years ago the former minister spent some time hiding from authorities over charges of plotting assassinations of top government officials. He returned to Armenia after the charges were dropped in July 2005).

Candidates need to submit all documents for registration with the Central Electoral Commission by November 26.

The by-election is slated for January 10.