“Hello. I am Nikol Pashinyan, and I came to be arrested”: Armenia oppositionist wanted by police surrenders and anticipates punishment

Out of hiding and into custody: Pashinyan has been taken to the court, protocol requires a court decision to put him under arrest.
The passionate oppositionist and the editor of an ultra-oppositional newspaper who surrendered to police after 16 months of hiding may face at least 6-7 years of imprisonment, according to his lawyers.

Nikol Pashinyan, editor of ‘Haykakan Jamanak’ (Armenian Times) who disappeared from Armenian public life after March 1, 2008 violence between police and opposition supporters was charged with organizing mass disorder and violence against authorities and with holding a public event in violation of law.

Pashinyan, 34 came out of hiding on July 1 and is currently in “Yerevan” penitentiary.

The National Assembly on June 19 adopted a decree on amnesty which applies to those who will appear before law enforcement bodies before July 31, 2009 and will be granted only in case if the punishment is not more than five years. So far, 29 oppositionists have walked free after amnesty was applied to them.

According to Pashinyan’s attorney Ara Zakaryan, amnesty refers to all the accusation counts, however “taking into account the authorities’ disposition towards Pashinyan, I suppose that his punishment will be more than five years, and he will not be granted amnesty,” Zakaryan told ArmeniaNow.

The oppositional activist said that he realizes that he would be sentenced to imprisonment, and that “it is excluded that he would regret for his decision.” Entering the Prosecutor’s office Wednesday he told the surprised police officers: “Hello. I am Nikol Pashinyan, and I came to be arrested.”

On June 24 Pashinyan announced his decision to emerge from “underground”, saying: “It (the decision) is dictated by my concerns to continue the productive political struggle, and now it is my turn to become a ‘political prisoner.’”

As a result of the post-election events five major opposition figures, including Pashinyan, have been at large: high-profile businessman NA deputy Khachatur Sukiasyan, and opposition activists Hamlet Hovhannisyan, Virab Manukyan, and Sevak Stepanyan.