By Karine Kalantarian
An Armenian opposition lawmaker was detained in the United States last week as a result of an apparent dispute with his U.S.-based former wife over their 17-year-old son, government officials and his political allies revealed on Thursday.
An Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman told RFE/RL that Tatul Manaserian of the Artarutyun (Justice) bloc was taken into custody at the Washington airport on January 15 and has since been kept in an immigration jail in the U.S. state of Virginia. Official Yerevan is trying to clarify the circumstances of Manaserian’s arrest, he said.
Artarutyun spokeswoman Ruzan Khachatrian, for her part, said: “The issue is being dealt with by the Armenian Foreign Ministry and our diplomatic mission in the United States. [Artarutyun leader Stepan] Demirchian has talked to Vartan Oskanian on the subject and everything is being done to solve the problem.”
“The incident has a purely personal character and is related to child custody,” she added.
Manaserian and his ex-wife moved to the U.S. in 1992 before getting divorced several years later. He returned to Armenia in 1997 with his son aged 13 at the time. An economist by training, he has since been active in Armenian politics, winning a parliament seat on the Artarutyun ticket last May.
Sources close to the Manaserian family say the boy was brought to Armenia without his mother’s consent. She is said to have taken him back to her California home later in 1997.
Manaserian traveled to the U.S. on two more occasions between 1997 and the latest trip, but faced no punitive action from authorities there, according to friends.
“He frequently visits the United States to give lectures and attend professional seminars,” Khachatrian said.
It is the first reported case of an Armenian parliament deputy held in U.S. custody.