Armenian Reporters Urge Police Chief To Explain Decision To Keep Edi


Aravot, Yerevan
3 Aug 07

Text of Anna Israelyan’s report by Armenian newspaper Aravot on
3 August headlined "Explain why you refused" and subheaded "Media
representatives suggest that Hovhannes Hunanyan explain why Arman
Babajanyan was denied release"

The Free Platform for Citizen Initiatives NGO holds a series of
meetings dedicated to the situation of human rights and liberties in
Armenia. The first in this series was the discussion at the Press Club
yesterday, dedicated to freedom of speech. Representatives of media and
news organizations, as well as lawyers participated in the discussion.

Although the latest developments concerning Radio Liberty and Tsayg TV
were spoken about, the discussion focused mainly on the editor-in-chief
of the Yerevan newspaper Zhamanak, Arman Babajanyan. The editor of
the newspaper, Armine Ohanyan, presented in detail facts which prove
that Babajanyan is subject to political persecution. For instance,
she said that a high-ranking official of the law-enforcement system
has suggested to Babajanyan – "if you close down your newspaper,
we will release you."

The participants in the discussion signed a statement which said that
judging by "the criminal persecution of Arman Babajanyan, as well as
by the developments ahead of the investigation and the trial, it can
be concluded that this persecution is political and is dictated by
intentions to limit Babajanyan’s professional activity. The mere fact
that he was not given an opportunity to pay the appropriate fine as
did other people who avoided military service, and to be exempted
from criminal persecution, proves that Babajanyan was subjected
to discrimination. This conclusion was confirmed recently when the
independent committee for releasing convicts on parole rejected his
appeal for parole after he serves one third of his prison term.

Meanwhile, the administration of the prison had given Babajanyan a
positive testimonial, saying that this was his first conviction and
that he had health problems, and it was clear that the legal right
for parole should have been applied to him. Noting once again the
fact about the illegal persecution of a journalist and an editor,
we call on journalistic organizations and the international community
to join our struggle to protect free speech."

The commentator of ArmeniaNow [online publication], Vahan Ishkhanyan,
noted that such statements are only a means of calming down. "Maybe
a more organized struggle should be developed." One of the lawyers
present suggested holding protests in front of the houses of members
of the independent committee for releasing convicts on parole, and
informing neighbours of the members that the person living next to them
is keeping a journalist in prison. It was also suggested that the head
of this committee, deputy police chief Hovhannes Hunanyan, should be
invited to a discussion and explain why the appeal was rejected. And
finally, a suggestion was made to ask the ombudsman to appeal to the
Constitutional Court in connection with constitutional grounds for
the establishment of the independent committee for releasing convicts
on parole.

Arman Babajanyan will appeal for release again in October. However, as
Armine Ohanyan said, eyewitnesses say that during the last discussion,
the name of Arman Babajanyan was already ticked on a list in front
of Hovhannes Hunanyan in order to highlight the person who was to be
denied release.