By Emil Danielyan
The editor of an Armenian newspaper who was arrested this week on charges of draft evasion claimed on Friday to be a victim of “political persecution” ordered by the government.
“My arrest and prosecution are pursuing a sole goal: to muzzle an independent and incorruptible media outlet supporting the removal of the illegal regime and the establishment of a legitimate government in Armenia,” Arman Babajanian of the “Zhamanak Yerevan” newspaper said in a statement released from his prison cell.
Babajanian, 30, was detained in his office on Monday and later charged with forging personal documents to avoid compulsory military service in 2002. Prosecutors investigating the case say he confessed to the charges before being remanded in a two-month pre-trial custody by a court in Yerevan.
In his brief statement, the editor condemned Armenia’s leadership but did not say whether he indeed pleaded guilty to the charges or thinks they are unfounded. “I am willingly paying this price in the great belief that deceit and fear will be rooted out in the Republic of Armenia , and am confident that irreversible democracy will prevail and the fundamental human rights and freedoms will be respected soon,” he said.
The “Zhamanak Yerevan” staff, joined by other journalists and human rights activists, picketed the prosecutors’ headquarters in Yerevan to demand Babajanian’s release on Tuesday. They said he is prosecuted because of his paper’s hard-hitting coverage of the Armenian government. Armenia’s journalist associations have also expressed concern about the criminal case.
(Photolur photo: A j ournalist holding up Babajanian's picture during Tuesday's protest.)