By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian authorities said on Friday that they are doing “everything” to secure the release of opposition lawmaker Tatul Manaserian who was detained in the United States last week in still unclear circumstances.
Manaserian’s relatives blamed the detention on his U.S.-based former wife who has sought custody for their son in the past. They also claimed that the senior member of Armenia’s largest opposition alliance arrived at the Dulles International Airport in Washington on January 15 with an Armenian diplomatic passport, which guarantees immunity from imprisonment.
Every member of Armenia’s National Assembly is entitled to getting it for trips abroad.
Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian said he has discussed with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian ways of “supporting” the deputy. “Certain steps have already been taken,” Baghdasarian’s press service said in a statement. “Manaserian has been enabled to meet with officials from the Armenian Embassy in the USA, and everything possible is being done to support him.”
“We are trying to make sure that the interests of our citizen are protected,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamlet Gasparian, said for his part.
The U.S. State Department and immigration authorities have not yet publicized motives for the detention. The U.S. embassy in Yerevan said it is aware of the matter but will not comment for the moment.
Manaserian’s sister Tamar, who lives in the U.S., said he was examined by doctors after complaining about heart trouble at an immigration jail in Virginia. She also said that the Armenian mission in Washington has provided her brother with a legal counsel.
“We keep in touch with him,” she told RFE/RL from Los Angeles. “He is now under medical control because of his poor health condition. We talk to him by phone several times a day.”
Both Tamar Manaserian and her second Yerevan-based brother Artur linked the incident to a row between Tatul and his ex-wife Nune Simonian. The opposition lawmaker, who had worked as an economics lecturer in California for several years, returned to Armenia 1997 with his son Armen aged 13 at the time. Simonian is said to have opposed the boy’s return and took him back to Los Angeles a few months later.
Manaserian’s brother showed a copy of an October 1997 ruling by a Yerevan court that awarded custody to the father. He claimed that Armen remains an Armenian citizen, while his mother has been staying in the U.S. illegally.