By Emil Danielyan
The U.S. consulate in Yerevan has refused to grant a visa to an Armenian ultranationalist politician who spent two months in prison last year for making anti-Semitic statements, it emerged on Thursday.
Armen Avetisian, the leader of a small party called the Armenian Aryan Union (HAM), cited a consulate official as telling him on Tuesday that he can not visit the United States because “we don’t want you to say things in the USA which you say in your country.”
Avetisian was arrested in January 2005 and given a suspended three-year prison sentence by a Yerevan court two months later for a series of media interviews in which he branded Jews as enemies of Armenia and called for their expulsion from the country. The leaders of Armenia’s small Jewish community had for months protested against his anti-Semitic discourse.
The radical politician was prosecuted shortly after the release of the U.S. State Department’s annual global report on anti-Semitism that made a reference to his xenophobic remarks. He has not publicly made such statements since his release from jail.
In a written statement, the HAM leadership said Avetisian planned to visit the United States to give “lectures” to members of the Armenian-American community on Armenian “national ideology and history.” It expressed “bewilderment” at the rejection of his visa application, arguing that Avetisian had already been allowed to visit the U.S. last August, just six months after the end of his trial.
The statement said that at the U.S. consulate Avetisian answered virtually the same questions which he had been asked during his previous visa interview. It said on both occasions consulate officials wondered what he thinks of the Jews and why he was prosecuted. They also asked why Avetisian never made good on his repeated pledges to publicize a list of Armenian government officials who he claims are homosexuals, according to the statement.
“We are more than convinced that this rejection is politically motivated and does not befit the rulers of a country which considers itself a superpower,” the HAM leaders said.
Avetisian is not the first Armenian ultranationalist denied entry into the U.S. in recent months. Igor Muradian, a former leader of the 1988 movement for Karabakh’s reunification with Armenian, similarly failed to get a U.S. visa earlier this year.
Muradian blamed the Armenian Assembly of America, an influential lobbying organization which has had uneasy relations with Diaspora Armenian nationalist circles, for the rejection. The Assembly shrugged off the claims.
(Photolur photo: Armen Avetisian.)