YEREVAN — Five leading members of Founding Parliament group were released from custody on Monday almost one month after being arrested on controversial charges stemming from its efforts to topple President Serzh Sarkisian.
Zhirayr Sefilian, the top leader of the Founding Parliament movement, and his four associates were set free after signing a written pledge not to leave Yerevan for the duration of an ongoing investigation into “mass disturbances” allegedly planned by them.
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.
A senior Armenian prosecutor, Vahagn Poghosian, ordered the release of the five oppositionists four days after Human Rights Watch declared that they were jailed because of their “peaceful political beliefs.” In a letter to Prosecutor-General Kostanian, the New York-based group said they must therefore be freed pending investigation.
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.