Armenians Rally After State of Emergency Ends

APAn Armenian policeman in riot gear using an electroshock device as officers disperse a rally in Yerevan on Friday.
YEREVAN, Armenia -- Several hundred opposition supporters held demonstrations across Yerevan on Friday after authorities lifted a 20-day state of emergency.

The rallies were against the March 1 arrests of dozens of opposition activists following clashes between police and protesters in which eight people were killed and dozens injured. A state of emergency followed, banning public gatherings, which ended Thursday at midnight.

The latest demonstrators lit candles and held pictures of those arrested on March 1. Police officers approached the protesters, who formed a chain across downtown Yerevan, urging them to disperse but not using force.

Several protesters yelled curses at the police, but there were no clashes.

The violence on March 1 erupted after police forcibly dispersed protesters claiming that the government rigged the Feb. 19 presidential election and demanding a new vote.

The official results gave the favored candidate of outgoing President Robert Kocharyan, Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, nearly 53 percent of the vote, while opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan received about 21 percent. Sargsyan is set to be inaugurated April 9.

Sargsyan said Thursday that 106 of the scores of detained opposition supporters remained under arrest, including some of Ter-Petrosyan's former allies.

"We are demanding that the authorities explain to us why these 106 people have been arrested," said one protester, Armen Martirosyan.

The opposition has capitalized on widespread public anger over endemic poverty, despite recent economic growth. "We have nothing to eat," said another protester, Alla Arutyunyan. "I'm wondering whether Sargsyan and his family could survive on the money they give me."