HR Activist Beaten: Attack comes as Opp begin anti-govm’t campaign, 2 April 2004

Human Rights Activist Beaten: Attack comes as oppositional parties begin
anti-governmental campaign

By Julia Hakobyan ArmeniaNow reporter

A well-known Armenian human rights activist remains in hospital, suffering
wounds inflicted when he was attacked Tuesday morning in Yerevan.

Mikael Danielyan, 45, Chairman of the Armenian Office of Vienna based
Helsinki Association was attacked by four unknown men outside his home on
Papazyan Street, while walking his dog. His assailants attacked Danielyan
from behind, knocked him down, then kicked him until he lost consciousness.

Petsos Babayan, doctor of neurological surgery department of Republican
hospital where Danielyan was delivered says Danielyan’s condition now is
“generally stable.”

The physician says Danielyan did not suffer a concussion, however his blood
pressure is dangerously high and doctors say such a shock could provoke a

The Yerevan police has launched a criminal proceeding on the case, however
so far there are no suspected. Detectives spoke with Danielyan on Thursday.

Danielyan, one of the most active human rights defenders in Armenia believes
that the attack was planned and organized by authorities in response to his
criticism of human rights abuse in Armenia at the hands of officials. He
qualified the violence against him as “state terror” and says that the
authorities intended to frighten him.

“Authorities might have hundreds of reasons to organize the attack on me,”
Danielyan says. “I investigate many crimes, defend people who are persecuted
by authorities, make reports for a number of Western human rights

While Danielyan says it is still unclear for him what exactly of his
activity, recent publications or statements might provoke the attack, the
local media community gave the following versions of the attack trigger.

Some say the attack on Danielyan was the aftermath of his recent remarks to
the Azerbaijani newspaper “Echo”, where he criticized President Robert
Kocharyan and the Minister of Defense Serzh Sargsyan for their efforts to
stop the opposition movement which has intensified in recent weeks.

In answering the Azeri newspaper question of whether military exercises
within the Armenian regular army mean that Armenia is preparing for another
war with Azerbaijan, Danielyan reportedly said: “I think the exercises are
connected with the ongoing rallies and protest of opposition. But if
Kocharyan sees that taking harsh methods does not help he might make this
step (to start the war) to make the opposition silent somehow.”

Some journalists speculate that the attack was organized by authorities to
at least temporarily suspend Danielyan from his human rights activity in the
period when the authorities will start mass arrests of opposition activists.

Several members of the oppositional parties have already been arrested
following the disorder at rallies in Gyumri last week.

Danielyan does not rule out the possibility that the beating was meant to
silence him. Danielyan’s wife Anna Hakobyan says she is convinced that her
husband’s activity disturbs authorities and he was beaten for his criticism
of the authorities human rights records.

“I foresaw that something like that could happen,” says Hakobyan, the head
of the Armenian office of London based PEN organization for writers.

“The pro-governmental media has recently intensified their dirty quibbless
on Mikael. Based on it one can guess of authorities’ attitude towards

Hakobyan recalled the 2002 attack on journalist Mark Grigoryan who was
seriously injured by a pipe bomb. Some say the attack was in response to
articles Grigoryan wrote that were not pro-government. No arrests were made
in the incident and Grigoryan has since moved abroad.

“Danielyan became another victim of authorities’ disfavor,” Hakobyan says.
“How many people should suffer to make clear that it all is ordered?”

President Kocharyan commissioned the General Prosecutor to study the
circumstances of the incident and undertake all possible steps to reveal the

Meanwhile a number of journalists’ organizations released a statement
condemning the assault on Danielyan:

“We consider that such violence is a consequence of an atmosphere of
intolerance in the republic,” the statement reads. “We hope that that the
law enforcement bodies will break the sad traditions of the recent years and
will find the organizers of the crime, since only punishment of the
criminals can prevent further violence.”