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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Armenian Opposition Leader, 8 Others, Held for 'Terrorism'

YEREVAN, Armenia -- Police have arrested a leader of Armenia's key opposition party, banned by President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, and eight other people, accusing them of planning terrorist acts, the chairman of parliament has said.


Babken Ararktsyan told the parliament Saturday that Vahan Hovanesyan, a leading member of the nationalist Dashnak party, and others were seized after an early morning shootout with police in which several policemen were wounded.


Ararktsyan said the group, including an officer of the presidential security service, was planning to launch a series of terrorist acts against prominent pro-government politicians and top officials. He gave no other details.


A statement by Armenia's Security Ministry on Friday said police were still searching for other members of the group. It said police had seized large amounts of arms, ammunition and explosives during the operation in the capital Yerevan.


Last December Ter-Petrosyan banned the Dashnak Party, his chief political opposition, accusing it of involvement in drug smuggling and terrorist activities. It rejects these accusations.


The Dashnaks, who ruled the country during its short-lived independence in 1918 to 1920, were barred from Armenia's first post-Soviet parliamentary election held July 5.


The second round of elections to the 190-seat parliament was held in 26 districts Sunday.


International observers have described the polls, in which Ter-Petrosyan's party scored an impressive victory, as "generally free but unfair."


Two days after the elections Armenia's Supreme Court launched the trial of a group of Dashnak Party members accused of politically motivated murders. The defendants reject the accusations.


Officials said those arrested Saturday also included Tigran Avetisyan, an officer of the Armenian president's security service and Manvel Yegiazaryan, a former field commander.