Armenian Editor Set Free

Hovannes Shoghikian
Aug 4 2009

Arman Babajanian, the editor of the pro-opposition "Zhamanak" daily
suffering from a brain tumor, was set free on parole on Tuesday after
spending more than three years in prison for draft evasion.

Babajanian’s release came just hours after a state commission empowered
to grant parole discussed his worsening health condition and decided to
let him undergo urgent treatment in a civilian hospital. The decision
was swiftly endorsed by a Yerevan judge.

Babajanian was greeted by dozens of relatives and opposition
activists as he walked out of a prison hospital in Yerevan. He
visibly had trouble moving his right leg and had to be assisted by
Armen Martirosian, an opposition parliamentarian.

"My condition is unstable right now," Babajanian told
journalists. "Pray, pray for my health. This is all I’m asking you."

Babajanian’s uncle, Levon Vartanian, said the young editor will be
flown abroad for treatment. "Our doctors have fooled as so much we
don’t trust them anymore," he told RFE/RL.

Vartanian claimed that Babajanian’s brain tumor was first detected
a year ago and that local doctors denied its seriousness until
recently. "If they let him go last year there would not be so many
complications," he said.

Babajanian was taken to the prison hospital last month after a serious
deterioration of his condition. The hospital administration formally
recommended his early release on Friday.

Babajanian was arrested in June 2006 and subsequently sentenced
to three-and-a-half years in prison for forging documents to evade
compulsory military service. The authorities have repeatedly refused
to free him on parole despite appeals from domestic and international
human rights groups.