Armenia. The mass protests in 2008 against the election of Serzh Sarkisian as president created continued conflict in 2009. Seven leading oppositionists were accused of organizing the demonstrations in Yerevan. In March, a year after the protests, new mass demonstrations were held, demanding the release of political prisoners. In June, the Sarkisian dissolved the commission investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of ten people in police and demonstrator violence in March 2008. Relatives and opposition claimed the government wanted to hide the truth. Prosecutors had identified four police officers as guilty. Subsequently, an amnesty was issued for a couple of thousand people sentenced to prison for participating in the protests against alleged electoral fraud in the presidential election. Critics said that the amnesty did not include those who were political prisoners.
The rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey continued during the year. The countries agreed on a so-called framework for normalizing relations. However, the difficult question of Armenia’s demand that Turkey recognize the Turkish genocide of Armenians in 1915 was not resolved. In April, the nationalist party Dasjnak, with strong support among Armenians in exile, left the government in protest. President Sarkisian traveled to France, Lebanon, the Russian Federation and the United States to seek peaceful and convincing Armenian exile groups. An important argument for the government to settle with Turkey was that it would bring great economic benefits.
In October, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Turkey signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations and open the common border within two months, when the two parliaments approved the agreement. A joint commission, including with international experts, would investigate the “historical dimension” of the two countries’ relations, which have been bitter since 1915. Armenian press considered Turkey to have escaped the issue of mass murder, while insisting that normalization of relations was inevitable. Members of the Nationalist Party Dasjnak protested the agreement through a hunger strike.
According to countryaah, media freedom is further cut during the year, and journalists are exposed to threats and violence. In April, the editor-in-chief of Armenia Today was beaten by three men with bat. In October, a trial was launched against opposition editor Nikol Pasjinian, who was accused of organizing the mass protests in 2008. The international financial crisis hit hard on the country’s important mining industry as prices fell on important export goods such as copper and gold. Many industrial workers were released and the gold mining in the south was occasionally silent.