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Armenian Editor Set Free


Armenia -- Arman Babajanian, editor of the "Zhamanak" daily, leaves a Yerevan prison on August 4, 2009.

Armenia -- Arman Babajanian, editor of the "Zhamanak" daily, leaves a Yerevan prison on August 4, 2009.

Arman Babajanian, the editor of the pro-opposition “Zhamanak” daily suffering from a brain tumor, was set free on parole on Tuesday after spending more than three years in prison for draft evasion.

Babajanian’s release came just hours after a state commission empowered to grant parole discussed his worsening health condition and decided to let him undergo urgent treatment in a civilian hospital. The decision was swiftly endorsed by a Yerevan judge.

Babajanian was greeted by dozens of relatives and opposition activists as he walked out of a prison hospital in Yerevan. He visibly had trouble moving his right leg and had to be assisted by Armen Martirosian, an opposition parliamentarian.

“My condition is unstable right now,” Babajanian told journalists. “Pray, pray for my health. This is all I’m asking you.”

Babajanian’s uncle, Levon Vartanian, said the young editor will be flown abroad for treatment. “Our doctors have fooled as so much we don’t trust them anymore,” he told RFE/RL.

Vartanian claimed that Babajanian’s brain tumor was first detected a year ago and that local doctors denied its seriousness until recently. “If they let him go last year there would not be so many complications,” he said.

Babajanian was taken to the prison hospital last month after a serious deterioration of his condition. The hospital administration formally recommended his early release on Friday.

Babajanian was arrested in June 2006 and subsequently sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for forging documents to evade compulsory military service. The authorities have repeatedly refused to free him on parole despite appeals from domestic and international human rights groups.
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