Arman Babajanian, the gravely ill newspaper editor released from prison last week, pledged to fight for leadership change in Armenia alongside the country’s main opposition force on Monday as he prepared to travel abroad for urgent medical treatment.
Babajanian, 33, walked free last Tuesday less than two months before completing a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence which he had received for dodging compulsory military service. He was granted parole after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Babajanian said that he will fly abroad on Tuesday and undergo brain surgery already the next day. He refused to name the hospital and the country where he is to receive treatment.
“I will definitely return to Armenia and stay in politics because I believe Armenia’s problems have deepened and become more serious since 2006,” said the young editor. “The deficit of justice which I have observed among our citizens during this past week requires very serious work.”
Babajanian went on to commit his political future to former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK), saying that his “Zhamanak” (Time) daily will remain a “carrier of the HAK’s policies.” “I will stand beside the Armenian National Congress and put my newspaper to the service of the Congress’s goals,” he said.
“Zhamanak” has been highly critical of President Serzh Sarkisian and his predecessor Robert Kocharian and has strongly backed Ter-Petrosian since his return to active politics in late 2007.
Babajanian insisted on Monday that he ended up in jail shortly after returning to Armenia from the United States in 2006 mainly because of his and his newspaper’s political orientation. “I believe that I was subjected to political persecution,” he said. “I was the first journalist to be arrested under Robert Kocharian.”
Babajanian was charged with forging documents to evade the two-year service in Armenia’s armed forces. He pleaded guilty to the accusation during his trial.