The editors of about a dozen Armenian newspapers and online news agencies demanded on Thursday the release of fellow journalist and opposition leader Nikol Pashinian who was controversially jailed in connection with the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan.
Speaking at a joint news conference, they also said they trust Pashinian’s claims that he was attacked and beaten by two masked men at the Kosh prison 30 kilometers west of Yerevan last week.
Both the prison administration and the Armenian Justice Ministry strongly deny those claims. They say prison medics have examined the outspoken editor of the pro-opposition “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily and found no traces of violence on his body.
“When a person is arrested and then harassed in prison for his articles and statements, that is unacceptable,” said Aram Abrahamian, the editor of the independent “Aravot” daily. “The authorities failed to prove in the court that Nikol Pashinian had taken actions going against the law.”
“We can find ourselves in prison just like Nikol did. Why? Because we want our country to be on the right track,” said Mesrop Movsesian of A1+, a TV station and an online news service.
Another editor, Edik Baghdasarian of the Hetq.am electronic journal, claimed that the Armenian authorities ordered an attack on Pashinian in a bid to stop him writing anti-government articles for “Haykakan Zhamanak” in the prison.
“The authorities didn’t know Nikol well, and that is why they decided to silence him in that way,” Baghdasarian told journalists. “They calculated everything except the fact that it is not possible to silence Nikol.”
Earlier this week, Baghdasarian and several other editors picketed the Prosecutor-General’s Office in Yerevan to express concern about their colleague’s fate. They said on Thursday that they will hold more such protests.
The case against Pashinian stems from the March 1-2, 2008 opposition rally held after thousands of supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian barricaded themselves in central Yerevan. He was the main speaker at the rally that ended in vicious clashes between some of the protesters and security forces that left ten people dead and some 200 others injured. Scores of Ter-Petrosian loyalists were arrested or went into hiding in the following days.
Pashinian, who is a staunch backer of Ter-Petrosian, surrendered to the police in July last year and was subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in the “mass disturbances.” A general amnesty declared by the Armenian authorities last year means that he will have to serve only half of that sentence.
Both Pashinian and Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) consider the case politically motivated.