Journalists beaten up covering opposition demonstration

Reporters Sans Fronties, France
April 7 2004

Journalists beaten up covering opposition demonstration

Reporters Without Borders has protested after at least four
journalists were attacked covering an opposition demonstration. One
of them was also briefly arrested for photographing police setting up
roadblocks ahead of the rally.

Police failed to intervene as a group of unidentified men in civilian
clothes targeted the journalists during a demonstration organised by
the Azgayin Miabanutiun party (National Unity) in Yerevan on 5 April,
the international press freedom organisation complained.

The thugs attacked and injured Anna Israelian, of the daily Aravot,
Onik Grigorian, photographer for Armenia’s investigative journalists’
website, Hetq online, and Tigran Babaian, cameraman for privately
owned Kentron TV.

The attackers damaged their equipment, as well as the camera of Haik
Gevorgian, working for the opposition daily Kaykakan Jamanak. A film
crew from Shant TV had their videotapes snatched.

Before the rally began, Gevorgian was arrested and held for one hour
at Ashtarak, 50 kms from the capital, where he had gone to picture
police setting up roadblocks, placed the authorities said, to
maintain public order.

Expressing concern about the arrest, Reporters Without Borders
pointed out that the cameraman was only doing his job.

Armenian ombudsman condemns rights violation during opposition rally

Armenian ombudsman condemns rights violation during opposition rally

Public Television of Armenia, Yerevan
6 Apr 04

[Presenter over video of women’s meeting] The human rights defender,
Larisa Alaverdyan, has also condemned violence directed against
freedom of speech that took place at the opposition rally yesterday [5

Women representatives of Armenian political organizations, who
gathered at a meeting devoted to prospects of democracy, confirmed
that one could not speak even about guarantees for men’s rights in an
undemocratic country.

[Larisa Alaverdyan, captioned as Armenian ombudsman] Any violence and
disorder which takes place in Armenia does not mean violation of the
rights of only a group of men or journalists. This points to the
weakness of the state and ruling authorities which should ensure law
and order in the country.

Freedom House Report Highlights Countries With Democratic Deficits

Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic
April 7 2004

World: Freedom House Report Highlights Countries With Democratic
By Breffni O’Rourke

The U.S.-based pro-democracy organization Freedom House has issued a
report that examines the problems and hurdles facing democratic
development in 30 countries. The report concludes that Uzbekistan is
one of the most repressive countries in the world. It also says
democratic efforts in Kyrgyzstan have stalled, as they have in
Armenia and Ukraine. Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are described as
having authoritarian systems.

Prague, 7 April 2004 (RFE/RL) — Freedom House, an organization that
monitors democracy around the world, today published a list of
countries that it claims need help to achieve democracy — or to
further improve it.

The New York-based group says its list of 30 countries is the first
of its kind. It is aimed not just at criticizing the countries named
but also at drawing the international community’s attention to the
fact that they need assistance.

In presenting the report — called “Countries at the Crossroads” —
Freedom House’s Executive Director Jennifer Windsor said “these
countries are at key transition points and to ignore their needs
creates a risk of both individual backsliding and regional democratic

The list includes Afghanistan and Pakistan; the Central Asian nations
of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan; in the Caucasus, Armenia,
Azerbaijan, and Georgia; and in Europe, Ukraine. Several Arab states
are also mentioned, such as Bahrain, Qatar, and Yemen.

— In Afghanistan, the report finds that the “rule of the gun largely
supersedes the rule of law.” It says that extra military support is
urgently needed to stabilize the country outside the capital Kabul,
and that the rights of Afghan women remain at Taliban-era levels in
some regions.

— In Pakistan, it says the growing role of the military in
government and civil life is a major obstacle to democratic reform,
and that promises of reform have not so far shown results.

— In Kazakhstan, the report finds an authoritarian system with
limited scope for political competition.

— Kyrgyzstan, it says, has experienced initial democratic openings
that have since stalled or eroded.

— The report sees Uzbekistan as being among the most politically
repressive states in the world, having perpetrated what it calls
“gross violations” of human rights and religious freedoms.

Turning to the Caucasus, the Freedom House report finds that:

— In Armenia, the limited democratic reforms that were undertaken
have gradually eroded, and stalled, and are in danger of complete

— In Georgia, before November’s ouster of President Eduard
Shevardnadze, the situation was rated the same as in Armenia.

— In Azerbaijan, there is an authoritarian system with limited scope
for political competition.

— In Ukraine, the limited democratic reforms that were undertaken
have gradually eroded, and stalled, and are in danger of complete

“I think the key question is what happens to U.S. policy — for how
long the U.S. is going to go on supporting authoritarian regimes in
Central Asia while trying to spread democracy in the Middle East?” —
Political analyst Heather Grabbe of the Centre for European
ReformFreedom House’s inclusion today of Uzbekistan as one of the
most repressive regimes comes after the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced yesterday that it was
banning most loans to Uzbekistan because of continued political
repression and lack of economic reform.

EBRD President Jean Lemierre said the bank will stay engaged to push
for reforms but can no longer conduct business as usual in

EBRD spokesman Jeff Hiday — speaking in London before yesterday’s
decision — gave the methodology on which the bank based its
decision. It set criteria against which Uzbekistan’s performance
could be measured.

“The environment in Uzbekistan has been particularly challenging. So
we set seven benchmarks. And we sought for Uzbekistan to demonstrate
progress on these benchmarks. The extent to which they made progress
would determine the extent to which we continue to invest in the
country,” Hiday said.

The watchdog organization Human Rights Watch today praised the EBRD’s
decision, calling it “unprecedented” and “principled,” and describing
Uzbekistan’s rights record as “appalling.”

Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Vanessa Saenan said in Brussels that
the EBRD should apply its benchmark system to other countries, as

“There are several other countries out there, particularly in Central
Asia and the Caucasus, where a similar approach to that taken with
respect to Uzbekistan would be warranted,” Saenan said.

Another Human Rights Watch spokeswoman, Veronika Leila in Geneva,
listed those countries, saying such benchmarking could become a
standard method for measuring progress in democratic and economic

“It would be Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan. In the
South Caucasus, we are talking about Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
In Europe, it would not be unwarranted to take a similar approach
with respect to Ukraine. So we are really hoping that the [EBRD],
after this experience with Uzbekistan, will become more forceful and
serious about its political mandate, as it has really demonstrated
that it is able to ‘operationalize’, if you wish, its political
mandate, which makes clear that it was set up to engage those
countries in the region which do respect democracy and human rights,”
Leila said.

Leila called on the United States and the European Union to take a
harder line with countries like Uzbekistan, which are allies but
which do not observe human rights. She noted that the U.S. government
must soon issue its periodic certifications for Kazakhstan and
Uzbekistan, confirming that they are making progress on rights
commitments so that aid can be continued.

She said these two countries are plainly not making progress.

Political analyst Heather Grabbe of the Centre for European Reform in
London said that much will depend on what the United States does.

“I think the key question is what happens to U.S. policy — for how
long the U.S. is going to go on supporting authoritarian regimes in
Central Asia while trying to spread democracy in the Middle East? It
doesn’t really make sense, and obviously the U.S. agenda has a huge
impact on the role of the international organizations,” Grabbe said.

Grabbe said it’s an important moment for international donors to
consider the conditions they attach to their financing. But she also
said there was a persistent lack of consensus within the
international community on how to deal with repressive regimes.

The complete Freedom House survey can be found on the Internet at

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

BAKU: Stop Viewing Relations w/Turkey thru rose-coloured spectacles

Daily speculates on Azeri campaign against opening of Turkish-Armenian border

Zerkalo, Baku
6 Apr 04

The Baku government has orchestrated a protest of Azerbaijani
reporters in Turkey against the opening of the Armenian border,
Azerbaijani daily Zerkalo has reported. The Azerbaijani leadership is
attempting to exert pressure on Turkey ahead of President Ilham
Aliyev’s visit to this country later this month, the newspaper
said. But Turkey seems to have made up its mind to lift the blockade
of Armenia since this country itself has serious problems with
Yerevan. On the other hand, there is European pressure, and Ankara is
ready to pay the highest price for EU membership, the daily said. The
sooner Turkey becomes an EU member, the better for Azerbaijan. Turkey
could then influence EU decisions relating to Azerbaijan, Zerkalo
said. The following is the text of the report by R. Mirqadirov in
Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo on 6 April headlined “Time to stop
viewing relations with fraternal Turkey through rose-coloured
spectacles”; subheadings inserted editorially:

Azerbaijan tries to exert pressure on Turkey

Contradictions in relations between two fraternal countries have
become visible ahead of the Azerbaijani president’s official visit to
Turkey. For the first time after gaining independence Azerbaijan is
not solving existing problems amicably through diplomatic channels,
but is trying “to exert pressure” on the Turkish government through
“public opinion” and that is a fact.

At the initiative of the independent TV company ANS, as a circulated
statement reads, on 6 April a group of journalists from leading media
outlets will go to the Turkish-Armenian border to stage an action
under the slogan “Turks must support Turks”. The rally-goers are even
planning to form a symbolic “live impassable border” between Turkey
and Armenia. The action will end in Ankara.

To all appearances, some opposition forces in Turkey will back this
action as they believe that the [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip]
Erdogan government is making inadmissible concessions for the sake of
EU membership. It is not a coincidence that the rally-goers will call
on the Turkish government not to yield to “pressure from some
countries” and not to open the border with Armenia. It would not be
very difficult for Ankara to sort out problems with individual
countries. Things are different with the EU which has been insisting
on the opening of the border. The Erdogan government is prepared to
pay the highest price for Turkey’s EU membership.

Given the aforesaid, it is difficult to imagine that the group of
journalists “from the leading media outlets leave for Turkey” without
“permission” especially ahead of [Azerbaijani President] Ilham
Aliyev’s first visit to Ankara as president. It is clear that this
demarche of the two countries’ public, which has been organized by the
Azerbaijani side and which will most probably involve Turkey’s
opposition forces, is unlikely to create a favourable atmosphere in
the forthcoming talks between Ilham Aliyev and Erdogan. Thus, the
Azerbaijani government is deliberately aggravating relations with the
Erdogan government to some extent. But is it worth doing so?

Let us start with the positive aspect. For the first time ever the
Azerbaijani government is trying to use resources of the
non-government sector to implement a specific foreign policy task. It
is a pleasing aspect on its own.

Opening of border formality

Let us now talk about the essence of the problem. If the Azerbaijani
government tries to use public pressure to prevent the opening of the
border and, in doing so, almost jeopardizes Ilham Aliyev’s forthcoming
visit to the fraternal country, this means that all other diplomatic
means have failed to settle this problem, i.e. the opening of the
border with Armenia is already a settled issue and this is all only

Is this in the interests of the Azerbaijani government? Obviously,
no. No matter who says what, Azerbaijani society will most probably
assess the opening of the border between Turkey and Armenia as a major
foreign policy failure of the new Azerbaijani president. Ilham
Aliyev’s opponents will recall that international organizations
demanded that Turkey open the border with Armenia in the past as
well. But Ankara did not do so during [late Azerbaijani President]
Heydar Aliyev’s tenure.

Armenia to get political rather than economic dividends

But this is not the whole story. The opening of the border and
establishment of normal economic and diplomatic relations between
Armenia and Turkey will naturally strengthen the position of the
incumbent Armenian leadership, on the whole, and [Armenian President]
Robert Kocharyan in particular.

Armenia will not receive economic dividends from the opening of the
border at the beginning. First, the Armenian market is too small for
serious Turkish investors. Second, the opening of the border is one
issue, but the establishment of serious economic relations is
completely different. But one could “unofficially” regulate the level
of economic relations as well. Third, Armenia is far behind from
regional integration processes and major economic projects. That is
why, it is unlikely that anyone in Armenia could seriously hope for
the rapid improvement of the internal economic situation after the
opening of the border with Turkey.

As for political dividends, the Armenian government will obviously get
them. First, Armenia will speak everywhere about the failure of the
blockade policy. Second, Kocharyan will receive certain trumps in the
struggle with the pro-Western part of the opposition which has accused
him of the isolation policy and has already announced nationwide
rallies against the incumbent regime starting on 9 April. Kocharyan
will prove his ability to end the country’s isolation without
concessions in such principled issues as the Karabakh problem.

Turkey plays own game

What about Turkey? Ankara has been trying to speculate on the Karabakh
problem for a long period, claiming to revise its relations with
Yerevan only after the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict
and liberation of all occupied Azerbaijani territories. Many people in
Azerbaijan have been gladly trusting this, forgetting that Turkey
itself has serious problems with Armenia. These are, first of all,
the problem of the so-called “genocide” and western territories,
i.e. Armenia insists on the international recognition of “the
genocide” and has territorial claims to Turkey. Having these problems,
it would be stupid of Turkey to establish normal relations with

Incidentally, the recognition of “the genocide” is not only an issue
of “restoring the historical truth” as the Armenian government claims,
but it can have quite specific negative financial consequences for
Turkey. Having recognized “the Jewish genocide”, Germany is still
paying to the descendants of Nazi concentration camp victims. These
prospects could be excessive for the Turkish economy which is hardly
stable and prosperous, unlike the German one.

But today Turkey has made serious concessions in the Cyprus issue for
the sake of its EU membership. The Cyprus issue is more important for
the Turkish government and the entire Turkish people rather than the
Karabakh problem. That is why, one should not be under a delusion and
think that Turkey will reject EU membership because of Azerbaijan. But
Turkey should solve its own problems with Armenia after all.

Zerkalo has learnt from informed Turkish diplomatic channels that
Yerevan and Ankara have recently had intensive unofficial diplomatic
contacts. In exchange for the opening of the border, Ankara has been
trying to achieve Yerevan’s guarantee that it will remove the
so-called “genocide” issue from the agenda. Incidentally, it is not
quite necessary that Armenia should give up the idea of the official
recognition of the genocide at the state level. Yerevan should not
simply exaggerate this issue in the future.

Thus, Ankara is trying to solve its own problems, but pretends that it
is allegedly forced to sacrifice Azerbaijan’s interests to EU

Azerbaijan should back Turkey’s EU membership bid

But we already must stop looking through rose-coloured spectacles and
see the practical side of the issue. Let Turkish society itself think
about the worth of opening the state border with Armenia without
certain guarantees for the settlement of the problems existing between
Ankara and Yerevan.

Ankara must realize that the EU is not in a hurry to see Turkey as its
member. Turkey is a big country in terms of human resources and
territory, which has the key geopolitical location and many serious
economic problems. Brussels realizes very well that Turkey’s
membership will create many problems for the EU itself. From this
viewpoint, the South Caucasus countries have better chances to become
EU members than Turkey.

At the same time, Azerbaijan should have an interest in Turkey’s EU
membership, the sooner, the better. At least, Turkey could then
directly influence EU decisions and even block those which are
unfavourable for Azerbaijan’s interests. It will be then possible to
judge whether fraternal ties between Azerbaijan and Turkey are strong

On the other hand, as soon as Turkey becomes an EU member, it will be
obliged to have the same level of relations both with Azerbaijan and

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Georgia: Saakashvili Pressures Brussels For Closer Ties

Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic
April 7 2004

Georgia: Saakashvili Pressures Brussels For Closer Ties
By Ahto Lobjakas

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili used his 6 April visit to EU
headquarters in Brussels to press for quicker integration with the
bloc. He said integration with the European Union is Georgia’s
foremost foreign policy goal, and suggested his country lags only a
few years behind current candidates. EU officials, however, made
clear that talk of membership is highly premature.

Brussels, 7 April 2004 (RFE/RL) — In political terms, Georgia’s new
president was making giant leaps on his maiden visit to EU
headquarters in Brussels.

Six months after the “Rose Revolution” that toppled longtime leader
Eduard Shevardnadze, Saakashvili leads a country that is heavily
dependent on emergency foreign aid.

It was only in January that the EU tentatively indicated that Georgia
and other Caucasus countries might be included in the bloc’s new
neighborhood program.

Yet Saakashvili took his hosts by surprise yesterday when he
suggested Georgia is very close to meeting EU membership criteria.

He told a news conference after meeting the president of the European
Commission, Romano Prodi, that the process may only take a few years.

“I believe that, besides getting the current assistance, we’re also
becoming members of the Wider Europe Initiative. That’s very
important. I believe that if present positive trends in Georgia
remain effective, [then] in the period somewhere between three to
four years we’ll be ready in terms of criteria for EU membership. Of
course, it will take time. Of course, it will take long procedures.
And I’m realistic about that. But I’m also convinced that Georgia
could be in good shape in three to four years if we solve those
problems and consolidate our statehood the way we are doing right
now,” Saakashvili said.

Specifically, Saakashvili said his country lags three or four years
behind Bulgaria. After the EU’s enlargement on 1 May, Bulgaria is the
front-runner in the next wave, set to join in early 2007.

Before meeting Prodi, Saakashvili said in a speech before the foreign
affairs committee of the European Parliament that Georgia is a
country with a “European identity and culture.” He listed reforms
aimed at bolstering the judiciary and law enforcement structures,
rooting out corruption, creating macroeconomic stability and
welcoming foreign investors. He also said Georgia would contribute to
the EU’s stability as a “frontline partner” in the fight against
terrorism and a vital contributor to the bloc’s energy security.

However, these arguments appeared to have made little impression on
Prodi. The commission president stuck to the tough EU line, according
to which the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed with
Georgia in 1995 still has a lot of unused potential. Prodi even
refused to indicate whether he would recommend Georgia for inclusion
in the bloc’s new neighborhood scheme.

“We start from the Partnership and Cooperation agreement that gives
us clearly plenty of room to increase our relations and we want to
move ahead in the implementation of the Partnership and Cooperation
agreement. But after the enlargement on 1 May, the commission in the
same month of May intends to make a recommendation on the
relationship of Georgia and Armenia and Azerbaijan to the European
Neighborhood Policy and the [EU] Council [of heads of state and
government] will consider this matter further, I hope, in June,”

Nonetheless, the inclusion of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in the
neighborhood project appears to be a foregone conclusion. But EU
officials privately doubt whether the three countries will be able to
make use of the integration opportunities offered by the project.

Prodi yesterday said the EU has given Georgia 10 million euros ($12.2
million) in food aid in recent months, and will shortly add another
3.6 million to support reforms of the judiciary and law enforcement

Saakashvili yesterday said his country would honor “European
standards” of peaceful conduct in dealing with the separatist regions
of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He said both will be offered autonomy.
At the same time, Saakashvili appealed for the close involvement of
what he termed “major European structures” in both peace processes.

The Georgian president also extended generous praise to his Russian
counterpart Vladimir Putin, who he said had played a very
constructive role in the recent standoff between Tbilisi and the
autonomous republic of Adjaria.

“There are two things,” Saakashvili said. “We have high expectations
for our relations with Russia, [because] they’re accepting the new
rules of the game, and the new rules of the game are that military
presence is no longer acceptable — that they should abide by
international agreements and [that] they should not meddle in the
internal affairs of [their] immediate neighbors — and I think what
Putin demonstrated in Adjaria was [in the first instance] that he
clearly gave the message to the local government leader [who] was no
longer supported by his population, [who] had problems with central
government and [who] had only hopes that President Putin of Russia
would support him, that Russia was no longer willing to grant the
same kind of support as one would have expected in the past, so
that’s quite a change from previous Russian [positions].”

But, added Saakashvili, it is too early to say whether this pattern
of behavior will continue.

Georgia: Officials Blame Nation’s ‘Enemies’ For Tbilisi Bomb Blast

Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic
April 7 2004

Georgia: Officials Blame Nation’s ‘Enemies’ For Tbilisi Bomb Blast
By Jean-Christophe Peuch

Prague, 7 April 2004 (RFE/RL) — Georgian law-enforcement agencies
have launched an investigation into yesterday’s bomb attack that
purportedly targeted the commander of the Russian armed forces in the

General Aleksandr Studenikin was slightly injured last night as he
was walking from the Russian forces’ headquarters in Tbilisi to his
home near the base.

Studenikin’s deputy, General Andrei Popov, said Studenikin sustained
only minor injuries to his arm, leg, and face. “The life of the
Russian forces’ commander is not under threat. He successfully
underwent surgery, and he is currently recovering at [the Russian]
military hospital,” Popov said.

Studenikin was reportedly hit by pieces of concrete as a
remote-controlled bomb tore off the wall of a building he was walking
by. The 49-year-old Studenikin has been in charge of Russian forces
in the Transcaucasus since September 2003. Prior to that date, he
fought in Chechnya.

This is the first time since Georgia regained its independence in
1991 that Russian troops stationed in the country have been the
target of an apparent politically motivated attack. The kidnapping
and murder of Russian Colonel Igor Zaitsev in 2002 has been generally
linked to shady business dealings.

Russia’s Georgian-based forces are garrisoned in the autonomous
republic of Adjaria and in the predominantly ethnic Armenian region
of Samtskhe-Djavakheti. Tbilisi has been demanding that Moscow comply
with a 1999 international agreement and vacates the Batumi and
Akhalkalaki bases as soon as possible.

The election of Mikheil Saakashvili as Georgia’s new leader in
January gave new impetus to negotiations on a possible time frame for
the Russian withdrawal. Georgian officials say they are optimistic an
agreement can be reached soon.

The Russian Defense Ministry on 29 March said it has halved its
presence in Georgia to 2,000 troops over the past few months. These
figures, however, are impossible to verify.

Georgian and Russian media today are speculating on the possible
motives for the purported attack against Studenikin. The most widely
cited possible reasons include the tense situation in Adjaria, the
ongoing Russian-Georgian cooperation against transnational crime, and
the war in neighboring Chechnya.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. However,
Georgian Security Council Secretary Vano Merabishvili yesterday
pointed to alleged “enemies of Georgia” opposed to a rapprochement
with Russia. “This act is a provocation organized by forces who do
not want the [political] situation in the country to remain stable
and Russia and Georgian to normalize their relations,” Merabishvili

Merabishvili described the blast as an “act of terrorism,” although
he said the perpetrators probably did not intend to kill Studenikin.
“Everyone believes the aim of this act was not to kill but rather to
sow fear,” he said. “But that doesn’t change anything. We’re happy
nobody was killed. But this incident in itself is very serious, and
we take it very seriously.”

Merabishvili said Saakashvili, who is currently on a visit to
Brussels, ordered him to personally supervise the investigation.

Echoing Merabishvili’s comments, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Aleksandr Yakovenko today said the attack was aimed at disrupting the
ongoing rapprochement between Tbilisi and Moscow. “This criminal act,
perpetrated in the center of [Tbilisi], fills us with deep
indignation,” he said. “There is no doubt its aim is to undermine the
development of Russian-Georgian relations. We demand that an
exhaustive investigation be conducted so that the culprits are
searched for and sentenced.”

Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Baramidze, who is currently on a
working visit to Moscow, today said the investigation has already
brought “concrete results.” Pointing at the situation in Adjaria,
Baramidze blamed the attacks on “forces eager to destabilize the
political situation in Georgia.” He gave no evidence to back up his

BAKU: Azeri FM wants Council of Europe’s help in resolving Karabakh

Azeri minister wants Council of Europe’s help in resolving Karabakh

Space TV, Baku
7 Apr 04

During his official visit to Baku today Council of Europe
Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer will mainly discuss the
Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict on Nagornyy Karabakh. Mr Schwimmer held
a meeting at the Foreign Ministry.

Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said Mr Schwimmer’s visit will give a new
impetus to relations between his country and the Council of
Europe. The minister told the guest about the situation with refugees
and displaced people who lost their homes as a result of the Nagornyy
Karabakh conflict. He stressed the importance of the Council of
Europe’s and the world community’s assistance in resolving the

Tomorrow morning Mr Schwimmer will visit hostels in Baku where
refugees and displaced persons are living.

Armenian police chief calls on people to stay out of illegal rallies

Armenian police chief calls on people to stay out of illegal rallies

Public Television of Armenia, Yerevan
6 Apr 04

[Presenter] The head of the Yerevan Police Department announced today
that an investigation is under way to reveal the people who broke
journalists’ cameras during the rally organized by the National Unity
Party [on 5 April]. The head of the police department also confirmed
that in cooperation with relevant services, checkpoints had been
posted on roads leading to the capital, preventive measures had been
implemented, and suspects with aggressive behaviour who took part in
the rally had been invited to police departments.

[Head of the Yerevan Police Department Col Nerses Nazaryan, captioned]
Fifteen minutes before the beginning of the rally, Mr Gegamyan [leader
of the National Unity Party Artashes Gegamyan] called on people who
gathered outside the Nairi cinema to move forward and continue the
rally there. This caused chaos which disrupted the work of the city
transport and of various facilities located in that area. This also
provoked the dissatisfaction of the citizens who against their will
became participants in the rally. Why am I saying rally? Because
during meetings with voters, they ask questions and answer them. In
this case, only Mr Gegamyan made a speech, which, in my opinion, could
have been done on TV, newspapers, but not by disrupting traffic.

All preventive measures will be taken in cooperation with appropriate
services. I would also like to note that schoolchildren and teenagers
became participants in the rally. As a person responsible for the
political situation in Yerevan, I would like to appeal to out citizens
to stay out of provocation and illegal developments and not to let
anyone turn our day by day flourishing city into the scene of illegal
demonstrations and rallies.

Armenian opposition leader vows to respond in kind to force

Armenian opposition leader vows to respond in kind to force

A1+ web site
6 Apr 04

At a press conference given by the National Unity Party today,
Artashes Gegamyan answered questions from reporters.

[Unspecified journalist] What kind of assistance do you expect from
the Council of Europe, the USA and Russia?

[Gegamyan] Armenia is a member of the Council of Europe and the
OSCE. These organizations have adopted the Geneva Convention on Human
Rights and Basic Freedoms which has been signed by Armenian President
Robert Kocharyan. We hope those countries will tell us and urge us to
honour what we have signed.

[Journalist] What will the National Unity Party do, if all the roads
leading to the city and the Freedom Square are blocked on 9 April?

[Gegamyan] The same as yesterday, I can only see a geometric
progression of things. At least 11 political parties, nine of which
are members of the Justice bloc, will join us.

[Journalist] However, what will you do if the rally does not take

[Gegamyan] Don’t worry, they simply don’t not know that we knew about
everything well in advance. I don’t know why but I think Robert
Kocharyan will tender his resignation within the next few days.

[Journalist] Have you discussed the question of giving guarantees to

[Gegamyan] Your question is rather tricky. We give guarantees to any
citizen provided he has not committed any crimes. The law will prevail
in the country.

[Journalist] What do you mean when you say that the authorities rely
on criminal elements?

[Gegamyan] Open the second page of Aravot [Tomorrow] newspaper, look
at the picture of Gro from Artashat, who is not an academician but a
criminal element.

[Journalist] It is expected that more people will turn up [for rally]
on 9 April. Do you think, eggs will again be thrown?

[Gegamyan] Certainly, they will without fail try to stir up mass
disorder. We shall do everything we can to avoid that. By doing so
they will further incite the situation. If people before were more or
less apathetic and indifferent, since yesterday they have been feeling
quite angry. Students, for example, were not at all allowed to attend

[Journalist] Have the authorities taken any steps to meet you?

[Gegamyan] No, there was no such initiative. Only what you already
know. I mean yesterday’s statement by the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation – Dashnaktsutyun.

[Journalist] Does that mean that you are planning to avoid
disturbances on 9 April?

[Gegamyan] We will respond in kind. We shall use words in response to
words, but if they resort to force, we shall respond in kind.

[Journalist] This is what they want.

[Gegamyan] That is right, but [Defence Minister] Serzh Sarkisyan and
[President] Robert Kocharyan see only blood, although hardly anybody
saw them in battlefields.

[Journalist] Do you have any statements from embassies? Do you know
their reaction?

[Gegamyan] Yes, do not worry, justice will prevail.

[Journalist] What will you do, if suddenly someone opens fire in the
air and panic starts. Have you drawn up any mechanisms as it is
difficult to guide panic-stricken people?

[Gegamyan] Yesterday standing in between blocked roads, I told people
that loathsome persons might fire. Naturally, I will go first.

[Journalist] Will Robert Kocharyan not fire on people?

[Gegamyan] He will do worse. He will rouse the feeling of fear in
people. This is more dangerous than firing in the sky. Do you think a
man from Dilizhan was injured incidentally in the rally? By this, they
plant fear in parents so as they do not let their children out of home
in the future.

[Journalist] It was broadcast yesterday that the opposition had
destroyed cameras. Why did you do that?

[Gegamyan] This despicable lie was circulated by Aylur [TV]. If
someone dares to “sneeze” at Public TV’s camera, a criminal case would
be brought against him. Aylur is guided by the principle of Goebbels’
propaganda: one should circulate mean lies to be believable.

[Journalist] Will there be a procession on 9 April?

[Gegamyan] The Justice bloc and the National Unity Party are currently
planning to hold a meeting on 9 April.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Armenian opposition spearheads campaign to change “undemocratic regi

Armenian opposition spearheads campaign to change “undemocratic regime”

6 Apr 04


“By giant waves of national struggle, we shall rid the country of the
undemocratic regime, return power to the people and establish jointly
a fair state,” the Republic [Anrapetutyun] Party issued this statement

According to our source, the Republic Party condemns the illegal
“ruling regime” and states that all efforts to settle a score with the
opposition are doomed to failure. The statement said that “the illegal
regime has again resorted to lowliness and arrested well-known
journalist Suren Surenyants on the trumped-up and false
charges. “Bringing to book for political views is an act
characteristic of the dictatorial regimes, and the dictator must be
removed for the establishment of a democracy in the country,” the
statement said.

Let us recall that today the first instance court in Yerevan’s Kentron
and Nork-Marash communities extended Suren Surenyants’ term in custody
by two months.