Notes From Hairenik
January 14, 2009
President Serge Sarkisian is continuing to give amnesty to political prisoners arrested in connection to the events of March 1, 2008, seemingly on a whim. Yesterday nine people who had been arrested and sentenced for up to four years were released from prison. Apparently the president took pity on them for one reason or another and let them out. Before the New Year some other prisoners who conveyed remorse for something they did or didn't in fact do were also released. Seems if you apologize to the president for looting or plotting a revolution no matter if you are indeed not guilty you will be pardoned if he has nothing against you. It's almost like admitting you're sorry to your mom for eating cookies you weren't supposed to touch until after dinner so you wouldn't spoil your appetite. 

The pardon brings the total count of jailed oppositionists or accused rascals in connection with March 1 to 60. Four guys on trial, among them former prime minister Alexander Arzumanian, remain defiant however, refusing to acknowledge the judge presiding over their case by standing up when he enters the courtroom. Each time they try to start proceedings the judge almost immediately ends the session since the defendants won't rise before the court, believing that it is a sham and that they won't receive justice. They are right. There is no independent judicial system; it's controlled by the executive branch of power or other, suspected powers that be. 

Until every single one of these prisoners is released as people and even politicians have been hoping for months, I can't expect anything good coming from this society in the interim. The PACE (Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe) is fed up and has been threatening sanctions against Armenia for repeatedly refusing to release political prisoners. Now Armenia's voting power in PACE is in jeopardy. Even pro-government parties are worried. It's not a comforting feeling to know that you can be convicted on mere suspicion without ample, credible evidence against you. Strange that for a country which is doing everything it can to seem European, as least cosmetically, Armenia is light years away from comprehending the social values that Europe is elevated by. This country has a long way to go in bringing its judicial system up to par with the rest of the free world. And the current administration is wittingly holding it back. 

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