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Diaspora Activist Seeks End To Armenia Travel Ban


France - French-Armenian activist Schanth Vosgueritchian leads a protest outside the Armenian Embass in Paris, 28April 2015.

France - French-Armenian activist Schanth Vosgueritchian leads a protest outside the Armenian Embass in Paris, 28April 2015.

A Paris-based Armenian Diaspora activist highly critical of Armenia’s political leadership on Tuesday again called for the lifting of its controversial ban on his visits to his ancestral homeland.

Schanth Vosgeritchian appealed to the newly appointed head of the National Security Service (NSS), Georgi Kutoyan, challenging him to “prove that there is still justice in Armenia.“

Vosgeritchian was barred from entering the country and deported back to France in May last year shortly arriving at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport on a flight from Paris. The French-Armenian activist, who leads the French chapter of a Diaspora group called Armenian Renaissance, says that immigration officers of the NSS refused to give any clear reasons for his detention and ensuing deportation.

Armenian Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobian cited the NSS as attributing the deportation to Vosgueritchian’s “actions in France that created problems” for the authorities in Yerevan. The NSS subsequently told an Armenian human rights group that he posed a “serious threat to national security and public order.” It did not elaborate.

Vosgeritchian has repeatedly organized anti-government demonstrations outside the Armenian Embassy in Paris. Their participants condemned the alleged rigging of Armenia’s February 2013 presidential election and imprisonments of anti-government activists in Yerevan. One of those small rallies was staged in April 2015 in support of five arrested leaders of a radical Armenian opposition group supported by Vosgeritchian.

“It remains unclear to me why my entry to the Republic of Armenia was banned and why that decision has still not been substantiated,” Vosgeritchian said in his open letter to Kutoyan. “I have repeatedly appealed to the NSS to substantiate the travel ban or repeal that illegal decision, but to no avail: all of my queries have gone unanswered.”

“I am appealing to you in the hope that you, as the new head of the NSS, will respond and prove that there is still justice in Armenia and that I will be able to freely visit by beloved homeland,” he wrote.

Kutoyan, 34, worked as a senior staffer in the office of Armenia’s human rights ombudsman before becoming an assistant to President Serzh Sarkisian in 2011.

Leaders of the influential Armenian community in France reportedly expressed concern at Vosgeritchian’s expulsion when they met with Armenia’s ambassador in Paris, Vigen Chitechian, in June.

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