YPC Weekly Newsletter

2006


APPEAL TO CHANGE THE PREVENTIVE PUNISHMENT FOR THE EDITOR OF “ZHAMANAK-YEREVAN” REFUSED

On July 12 the RA Court of Appeals sustained the ruling of the court of primary
jurisdiction of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan of June 27, 2006
on the arrest (for two months) of the Chief Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan”
daily Arman Babajanian. The appeal was filed on July 6 by attorney Robert Grigorian,
the counselor for defense of the “Zhamanak-Yerevan” Editor. It was
accompanied by a petition, signed by almost two dozen deputies of RA National
Assembly. MPs substantiated their opinion on the need to change the preventive
punishment of Arman Babajanian by the fact, that the Editor does not deny the
fact of document fraud, and “being free cannot impede the investigation, has
no previous convictions and has health problems” (quoted from “Haikakan
Zhamanak” daily, July 7, 2006 – Ed. note).

As it has been reported, the criminal proceedings (Clause 2, Part 2, Article
327 of the RA Criminal Code) were instituted against the Chief Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan”
on June 24 by the RA General Prosecutor’s Office basing on the data provided
by the RA Military Police. Arman Babajanian was detained on June 26, and, according
to the RA General Prosecutor’s Office, “made a confession in the presence of
an attorney” that in November 2002 he “forged documents to avoid drafting for
military service”. On June 27 Yerevan Press Club and the Committee to Protect
Freedom of Expression addressed the General Prosecutor with an official inquiry:
to name the attorney in whose presence, allegedly, Arman Babajanian was interrogated
and made a confession. The response to this inquiry, dated July 3, was received
on July 7 to the effect that the attorney was Vaghinak Gevorgian.

In the statement of June 29, 2006, made at Nubarashen pre-trial detention center,
Arman Babajanian qualified what happened to him as political persecution by
authorities “to silence another incorruptible and independent medium”. The journalistic
community, on its behalf, demanded to change the preventive punishment of “Zhamanak-Yerevan”
Editor (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, June
30 – July 6, 2006
).

On July 7 the Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern that “the
criminal case against Arman Babajanian may be related to his journalism” and
called on “Armenian authorities to release him pending trial and make their
evidence against him public”. A similar appeal – to make the preventive punishment
milder – was made by the Chairman of “Multinational Georgia” Citizen Movement
Arnold Stepanian (“Zhamanak-Yerevan” daily, July 8, 2006). Opinions of political,
public figures of the country in support of Arman Babajanian continue to be
published on the pages of the daily. The demand to change the preventive punishment
– “in the name of justice, freedom of expression and press” – was made in the
joint statement of 14 Armenian newspapers, journals, TV companies and TV programs,
issued in the USA. “Despite the explanations of the authorities, given with
regard to the case, we are convinced that Arman Babajanian is under arrest today
only because of his political and journalistic activities”, the statement, published
on July 13 in “Azg” daily, says in particular. The signatories expressed their
confidence that in this way a pretext was found with the elections upcoming
“to silence Arman Babajanian” and “to remove from the political stage another
independent medium out of governmental control”.

Meanwhile, in detention, Arman Babajanian continues his journalistic activities.
Thus, “Zhamanak-Yerevan” of July 7 published his article, “Peace Has no Alternatives”,
on the resolution of Mountainous Karabagh conflict.