YEREVAN — Opposition Zharangutyun party leader Raffi Hovannisian demanded on Wednesday the immediate release of three senior members of his party — Armen Martirosian, Hovsep Khurshudian and Davit Sanasarian — who were among opposition figures that organized rallies in support of “Sasna Tsrer” (Daredevils o Sasun) armed group that took over a Yerevan police compound last week. They were arrested and charged with inciting “mass disturbances” after one such rally was broken by riot police on Friday.

Hovannisian also called for the release of all “political prisoners.” He also announced that Zharangutyun will hold later this month nationwide rallies to voice support for the gunmen and demand sweeping political reforms in Armenia.

Lavishing praise on the gunmen, Hovhannisian that they are “counterterrorists” fighting for justice. “No matter how much [the authorities] mock me and us, [the gunmen] are really counterterrorists,” he told Wednesday news conference. “They are anti-terror soldiers who responded to government terror with few resources and minimal casualties.”

He seemed to downplay the killing of two police officers during the two-week standoff. He added, though: “We regret the deaths of the two police officers.” None of the 30 or so gunmen was killed by security forces.

The gunmen demanded the release of Jirayr Sefilian, the jailed leader of their Founding Parliament movement, and President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation immediately after capturing the police facility in Yerevan’s Erebuni district.

The Zharangutyun leader said the authorities’ failure to implement major reforms would result in more armed attacks. “If issues cannot be solved through normal political processes, new Sasna Tsrer will be born,” he said.

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