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Exploding hydrogen balloons at Armenian political rally injure many

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YEREVAN — More than 140 people were injured on Friday when gas-filled balloons exploded at a governing party campaign concert in the Armenian capital ahead of parliamentary polls on Sunday, officials said.

The emergencies ministry said 144 people suffered burns when scores of promotional balloons burst into flames at a concert staged by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican party in Yerevan’s central Republic Square.

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Armenian Internet sites showed a fireball rising into the air and chaotic images of people screaming in confusion and anger.

“The balloons exploded and caught fire after people holding the bunches released them from their hands into the air,” a witness told AFP.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosions although police said they were looking into various potential reasons including the “improper storage of flammable substances”.

“All the victims had either medium or light injuries. Now doctors are trying to revive them from shock,” Health Minister Harutiun Kushkian told reporters.

The promotional balloons were decorated with the governing party’s election slogan “Let’s believe in change”.

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The incident marred a largely calm election campaign and President Sarkisian promised a full investigation.

“I urge everyone to keep calm. Let us pray for all the victims and wish them a quick recovery,” he said in a statement.

Sarkisian’s party has been tipped by opinion polls to triumph in Sunday’s election ahead of its ruling coalition rival, the Prosperous Armenia party led by a wealthy former arm wrestling champion.

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The vote is the biggest test of the ex-Soviet state’s democratic credentials since disputed presidential elections in 2008, when mass rallies ended in bloody clashes between riot police and opposition supporters that left 10 people dead, casting a shadow over Sarkisian’s administration.

The authorities in the mountainous country of 3.3 million people have promised an unprecedentedly clean contest for the 131-seat National Assembly in the hope of avoiding further political turmoil.

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Opposition parties however have questioned the validity of the opinion polls and threatened demonstrations if there are mass falsifications.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

Photo PANARMENIAN, Tigran Mehrabyan via AFP

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‘Bulletproof from a pardon’: Fox News analyst says judge in Stone case just made things tough for Trump

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In the wake of Roger Stone's sentencing of 3.5 years in prison this Thursday, Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano posited that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson's choice to go along with Attorney General Bill Barr's sentencing recommendation could have been an effort to pardon-proof the sentence from President Trump.

"[Jackson's] trying to make this bulletproof from a pardon," Napolitano said. "Because she went along exactly with what [Barr] requested."

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Adam Schiff sends signal that a Roger Stone pardon would be another impeachable offense

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Rep. Adam Schiff suggested that a presidential pardon for Roger Stone would be an impeachable offense.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced the longtime Republican operative to 40 months in prison, saying Stone had lied to Congress and threatened a witness to cover up possible wrongdoing by President Donald Trump -- and Schiff sent a warning against a pardon.

"Roger Stone was found guilty of lying to Congress and threatening a witness," Schiff tweeted.

Schiff, who led the impeachment inquiry and trial, agreed with Jackson -- whose language echoed the lawmaker's "corrupt scheme and cover-up" indictment during the Senate trial.

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WATCH: Roger Stone greeted with ‘Lock Him Up!’ chants after getting sentenced to 40 months

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Trump ally Roger Stone frequently led chants of "Lock her up!" about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign -- but on Thursday, the table decisively turned.

After Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison for charges of perjury, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice, a crowd of people greeted the right-wing dirty trickster by chanting, "Lock him up!" outside the courthouse.

At least one supporter of President Donald Trump tried to get a "pardon" chant going, but they were drowned out by the louder "Lock him up" chants.

Watch the video below.

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