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Armenia July 12, 2006
H.E. Robert Kocharian
Office of the President
26 Marshal Paghramian Street
Republic of Armenia
Facsimile: (011.374.1) 52-15-81
We are following with great concern the recent arrest of Arman Babadzhanian, editor-in-chief of Zhamanak Yerevan, who as of this writing has been held in jail without bail since his detention June 26th.
Our understanding is that Babadzhanian is charged with fabricating documents in a fraudulent attempt to evade military service, a charge that carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. According to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), the alleged forgeries are said to have taken place in 2002.
We join many of the world’s press-freedom organization in our suspicion that Babadzhanian’s real transgression is editing a newspaper known for its critical reporting of the government. We note, for instance, that Babadzhanian was detained just a few days after Zhamanak Yerevan published an article questioning the independence of the Armenian prosecutor general’s office. According to published reports, the prosecutor general responded by summoning Babadzhanian for questioning as a witness in a criminal case but then jailed him for the alleged forgery.
As you may know by now, the Yerevan Press Club, Internews Armenia, the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, the Helsinki Committee of Armenia, and other press-freedom groups have petitioned the prosecutor general’s office for Babadzhanian’s release on bail. Their petition has thus far been denied — highly unusual in such a case, as our colleagues at IWPR point out, and more typically reserved for notorious felons.
Editors of seven Armenian newspapers have issued a joint declaration calling Babadzhanian’s arrest an effort to intimidate Armenia’s free press. We are too well aware that Armenia’s journalists have contended with unprecedented stresses from official sources in recent years, particularly since the enactment of legislation hobbling the coverage of terrorism in 2005.
We can think of no better way of sending a message on behalf of Armenian democracy, Your Excellency, than by doing all in your power to secure the prompt release of Arman Babadzhanian.
Norman A . Schorr
Freedom of the Press Committee
Prime Minister Andranik Markaryan
Office of the Prime Minister
Government Building #1
Republic of Armenia
Fax: (011.374.1) 15-10-35/ 52-94-43
Ambassador of Armenia to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Armenia
2225 R Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 319-2982
Ambassador Movses Abelian
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Armenia
to the United Nations
119 East 36th Street
New York, NY 10016
Fax: (212) 686-3934
John M. Evans
U.S. Ambassador to Armenia
Embassy of the United States of America
7020 Yerevan Place
Fax: (011.374.1) 52-08-00
(OR: U.S. Embassy – Yerevan , Armenia
c/o U.S. Department of State
Washington , DC 20521 )