ARF: No political prisoners in Armenia according to Council of Europe standards

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF, Dashnaktsutyun), which signed an agreement on political cooperation with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia on February 24 and for two days has been formally considered to be a governing party, believes that there are no political prisoners in Armenia.

During a press briefing at the National Assembly on Friday, ARF faction head Armen Rustamyan said that after the arrests and prosecution of Dashnak members in the 1990s Armenia has not had political prisoners according to Council of Europe standards.

“It is not parties’ criteria that decide whether a man is a political prisoner. There are five criteria adopted by the Council of Europe, which should be used in the assessment. It is unbiased specialists who are to make the assessment, there is no giving assessments out of political considerations,” said Rustamyan when asked to evaluate the status of maverick anti-government protester Vardges Gaspari, who was taken into custody a week ago on charges of allegedly insulting police officers and a judge.

Opposition groups in Armenia, however, consider Gaspari and a number of other opposition and civil figures arrested and prosecuted recently, to be political prisoners.

National Assembly Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee Chairman Elinar Vardanyan has launched a collection of signatures in the parliament for the appeal to a higher judicial instance for Gaspari’s release pending trial.

Later on Friday a court in Yerevan reportedly made a decision to set Gaspari free.

Earlier, newly elected Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan also appealed to the prosecutor general to launch an inquiry into allegations of torture against the 59-year-old activist.