RFE/RL Armenian Service – 11/07/2023

                                        Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Another Armenian Government Critic Held For Social Media Post

        • Narine Ghalechian

Armenia-MP Arargats Akhoyan is guest in Sputnik-Armenia press club, undated

Law-enforcement authorities arrested on Tuesday yet another vocal critic of the 
Armenian government on charges of calling for politically motivated violence on 
social media.

The charges leveled against Aragats Akhoyan, a former parliament deputy, stem 
from a short message which he reportedly posted on his currently deactivated 
Facebook page in June. According to the Investigative Committee, Akhoyan urged 
supporters to draw up a list of people who must be “swatted” after Prime 
Minister Nikol Pashinian is removed from power. He did not name anyone.

Akhoyan’s lawyer Gor Vartanian emphasized this fact when he spoke to RFE/RL’s 
Armenian Service. He claimed that his client made an “abstract statement” and 
did not call for the murder of any concrete individual.

“He called for violence motivated by his political views,” insisted Gor 
Abrahamian, a spokesman for the Investigative Committee.

The law-enforcement agency launched late last week criminal proceedings against 
Avetik Ishkhanian, a veteran human rights activist and harsh critic of 
Pashinian, sparking uproar from opposition and public figures. It claimed that a 
recent Facebook post by Ishkhanian contained calls for violence. But it has not 
indicted him so far.

The committee also brought relevant criminal charges against seven other persons 
who attended or encouraged anti-government protests in Yerevan sparked by 
Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh. They 
include Tatev Virabian, a Karabakh Armenian mother of two. She is due to be 
moved to house arrest later this month.

Vartan Harutiunian, another prominent human rights campaigner, believes that 
these criminal cases are at best examples of selective justice. Harutiunian 
noted that Pashinian has repeatedly threatened his political opponents with 
violence but has never been prosecuted for that.

The premier brandished a hammer during his election campaign rallies in 2021, 
threatening to “throw on the ground” and “bang against the wall” opposition 
supporters who would try to topple him. He similarly threatened to make them 
“eat asphalt and leak curb stones” during campaigning for the recent municipal 
elections in Yerevan.

Harutiunian said that Pashinian made “much more serious calls for violence” than 
his jailed detractors because he is in a position to act on them.

Gevorg Papoyan, a parliament deputy from the ruling Civil Contract, countered 
that Pashinian never threatened to kill anyone. The premier, he said, simply 
warned of legitimate arrests, using a “description spiced up in an artistic 

Karabakh Armenian Sentenced In Azerbaijan

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Azerbaijan -- Vagif Khachatrian goes on trial in Baku, October 13, 2023.

A military court in Baku sentenced an ethnic Armenian from Nagorno-Karabakh to 
15 years in prison on Tuesday three months after he was arrested by Azerbaijani 
security services during his aborted medical evacuation to Armenia.

The 68-year-old Vagif Khachatrian was among Karabakh patients escorted by the 
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Armenian hospitals for urgent 
treatment. He was detained at an Azerbaijani checkpoint in the Lachin corridor 
and then charged with killing and deporting Karabakh’s ethnic Azerbaijani 
residents at the start of the first Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

Azerbaijani authorities specifically implicated Khachatrian in the alleged 
killings of 25 Azerbaijanis from the Karabakh village of Meshali captured by 
Karabakh Armenian forces in December 1991. He lived in another village close to 
Meshali during and after the 1991-199 war.

Khachatrian, who had been due to undergo a heart surgery in Yerevan, repeatedly 
denied the accusations during his trial that began on October 13. He said, in 
particular, that he was held in an Azerbaijani prison during the capture of the 

“I’m an innocent person,” Khachatrian said in his concluding remarks made 
shortly after the announcement of the verdict in the case. The verdict mirrored 
punishment demanded by an Azerbaijani prosecutor.

Khachatrian refused to be represented by an Azerbaijani government-appointed 
lawyer at the start of the trial. He defended himself during the subsequent 
court hearings.

Prior to the trial, the Karabakh Armenian was allowed to phone to his daughters 
based in Armenia and send them letters through the ICRC.

“He didn’t ask anything from us,” one of the three daughters, Venera, told 
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Tuesday. “He only asked us to take care of 

The Armenian Foreign Ministry condemned Khachatrian’s “sham trial” last month. 
It insisted that Khachatrian was arrested and prosecuted “in flagrant violation 
of international humanitarian law.”

“Armenian POWs and civilians still held hostage in Baku should be released,” 
said a ministry spokeswoman.

They include eight former political and military leaders of Karabakh who were 
arrested at the Azerbaijani checkpoint during the mass exodus of the region’s 
ethnic Armenian population resulting from Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 military 
offensive. They are facing various grave accusations rejected by the Armenian 
government as well as current Karabakh officials.

Armenia Skips Another Ex-Soviet Meeting

        • Astghik Bedevian

Armenia - Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev (left) and his 
Armenian counterpart Armen Grigorian meet in Yerevan, June 16, 2022.

Ten days after joining multilateral peace talks initiated by Ukraine and 
condemned by Russia, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council announced on 
Tuesday that he will not attend Wednesday’s meeting of his Russian and other 
ex-Soviet counterparts.

A spokeswoman for Armen Grigorian gave no reason for the decision to skip the 
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) meeting in Moscow when she communicated 
it to the official Armenpress news agency. RFE/RL’s Armenian Service could not 
contact her for further comment in the following hours.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian similarly declined to attend a CIS summit in 
Kyrgyzstan held on October 13. The effective boycott highlighted his 
government’s mounting tensions with Moscow.

Grigorian added to those tensions when he joined security officials from more 
than 60 countries who gathered in Malta late last month to discuss Ukrainian 
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s plan to end the war with Russia. He also met 
with Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, during what Moscow condemned as 
a “blatantly anti-Russian event.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry called Grigorian’s trip to Malta a “demonstrative 
anti-Russian gesture of official Yerevan” and accused Pashinian’s administration 
of systematically “destroying” Russian-Armenian relations. Armenian parliament 
speaker Alen Simonian rejected the criticism last Friday, saying that Russia is 
keen to maintain Armenia’s “existential dependence” on it.

Earlier this year, Yerevan also refused to participate in military exercises 
held by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and shunned a meeting 
of the defense ministers of ex-Soviet states making up the Russian-led alliance.

Pashinian has repeatedly accused the CSTO and Russia of not honoring their 
security commitments to Armenia. But he has so far stopped short of pulling his 
country out of the alliance or demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Reposted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2023 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.