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Yerevan Lifts Travel Ban On Diaspora Activist


France - French-Armenian activist Schanth Vosgueritchian (L) leads a protest outside the Armenian Embassy in Paris, 28April 2015.

France - French-Armenian activist Schanth Vosgueritchian (L) leads a protest outside the Armenian Embassy in Paris, 28April 2015.

Lifting a yearlong travel ban, the Armenian authorities have allowed a Paris-based Armenian Diaspora activist supporting their radical political opponents to visit his ancestral homeland.

Schanth Vosgueritchian was barred from entering Armenia 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, planned to attend anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan organized by a hardline opposition group.

Shortly after his deportation, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) told a human rights group that Vosgueritchian poses a “serious threat to national security and public order.” It never elaborated on the claim, reinforcing a widely held belief that that the travel ban is connected with his political views and activities.

Vosgueritchian 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.

Earlier this year, Vosgueritchian wrote to the newly appointed head of the NSS, Georgi Kutoyan, asking him to lift the ban and “prove that there is still justice in Armenia.” He went on to take legal action against the powerful security agency.

A legal representative of the NSS announced the lifting of the ban on Wednesday during a court hearing on Vosgueritchian’s lawsuit. A letter submitted by him to the presiding judge said that there are no longer “grounds” for keeping the activist’s name on an NSS blacklist of foreigners denied entry to Armenia. He did not specify those grounds.

“Today is the happiest day of my life,” Vosgueritchian wrote on his Facebook page later in the day.

Leaders of the influential Armenian community in France reportedly expressed concern at Vosgueritchian’s expulsion when they met with Armenia’s ambassador in Paris, Vigen Chitechian, in June 2015.

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