Sefilian, other Founding Parliament activists released, confined to city limits

Sefilian, other Founding Parliament activists released, confined to city limits


Jirair Sefilian and other leading members of the radical opposition Founding Parliament group have been released from custody on Monday following a prosecutor’s request to change the measure of restraint applied against them to a written undertaking not to leave the area of permanent residence.

Sefilian, a Lebanese-born Karabakh war hero, and four other activists, including Founding Parliament chairman Garegin Chukazsyan, members Varuzhan Avetisyan, Pavel Manukyan and Gevorg Safaryan, were detained on April 7 as National Security Service (NSS) workers conducted searches at their homes as well as at the Founding Parliament headquarters in Yerevan. The NSS said later it obtained evidence that the group intended to instigate “mass disturbances” during a rally planned in Yerevan last month.

The five men were charged accordingly and taken into custody three days later amid protests from their fellow campaigners as well as human rights activists who claimed that there were insufficient grounds for their arrests and that the Founding Parliament members were being prosecuted for their political views.

Last week New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch also called on authorities in Yerevan to release the members of the group known to be campaigning for regime change in Armenia.

The Founding Parliament had controversially planned to launch nonstop street protests on April 24 – the day when large-scale events marking the centennial of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey were taking place in Yerevan.

After the arrests of the leaders, the group’s activists still voiced their determination to continue to fight for regime change, but acknowledged that the immediate focus of their struggle had shifted towards securing the release of their jailed comrades.

Only several dozen people attended a series of rallies held by the Founding Parliament on the outskirts of Yerevan since April 24.