(Saturday, February 27)
“Chorrord Ishkhanutiun” comments on Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) lawmaker Armen Rustamian’s controversial statement that Armenia has not had any political prisoners since the arrests and trials of members of his political party in the 1990s. “If so, then hundreds of people arrested before and after the 2008 post-election clashes, some of whom are now Rustamian’s colleagues in parliament, were just criminals, as were hundreds of members and supporters of the opposition movement in 2003-2004 and currently jailed Shant Harutiunian and his friends who protested against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Armenia in 2013,” writes the newspaper, noting sardonically that it was current President Serzh Sarkisian, with whose ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) the ARF signed a cooperation deal on February 24, who led Armenia’s ministry of the interior and national security during the 1990s.
On the same subject, “168 Zham” suggests that the ARF representative has been less restrained in his estimations regarding the presence of political prisoners in Armenia than even some of the ardent HHK members. “Perhaps, in exchange for some ministerial portfolios ARF members have committed themselves to acting so that in comparison with them the HHK members look like real champions of democracy and liberalism. If so, then they quite succeed in this job,” the paper writes.
“Zhamanak” sees the main cause of what it claims to be widespread skepticism in society regarding the HHK-ARF deal in the inability of either party to explain what it is that the HHK cannot do alone and need the ARF’s assistance for. “Either they really don’t know why they have united or they do know but pursue completely different goals that they cannot reveal to the public,” the daily concludes.
“Hraparak” suggests that the allegations made by civic activist Vardges Gaspari about his being subjected to beatings and humiliation in remand prison show that lawlessness reigns in Armenian penitentiaries: “Human rights abuses and gang rule in prisons have reached their climax.Gaspari has compared the prison where he was kept with a slaughterhouse, where anyone can become a victim, even the one who ill-treats others.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” cites the latest report of the Armenian Ministry of Finance about tax and duties collection in January to suggest that the shortfall of revenues observed during most of 2015 continues this year. “In January this year 2.7 percent less taxes and duties were collected than in the same month in 2015... Given the depreciation of the national currency, the budget shortfall in 2015 stood at about $400 million,” the daily estimates.