Armenian-American rock musician Serj Tankian has condemned the pro-government directors of 30 schools and kindergartens in Armenia for suing a civic organization that exposed their highly controversial involvement in the ruling HHK party’s parliamentary election campaign.
“Someone bringing attention to corruption and injustice should be praised not prosecuted,” Tankian wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday.
“If the school principals involved feel embarrassed at the revelation of their inappropriate actions, they should go after those that put them in that position, not a journalist,” he said.
The directors are seeking a formal apology and a total of 60 million drams ($124,000) in damages from the Union of Informed Citizens (UIC) and its most prominent activist, Daniel Ioannisian. They claim that UIC actions compromised their “honor and dignity.”
UIC activists posed as HHK representatives when they telephoned 136 schools and kindergarten chiefs across Armenia in the run-up to the April 2 elections. The vast majority of them admitted drawing up lists of students’ parents as well as schoolteachers and kindergarten staff who pledged to vote for the HHK.
The UIC said the lists were submitted to local government bodies or HHK campaign offices. It portrayed audio recordings of the phone conversations as further proof that the ruling party is abusing its administrative resources to win the elections.
Tankian met with Ioannisian and other civic activists when he arrived in Armenia late last month to monitor the vote together with several other ethnic Armenian artists from the United States and Canada. In his Facebook message, the lead singer of the rock band System Of A Down praised Ioannisian for his “efforts in journalistic activism.”
The court case against the UIC has also been denounced by other Armenian society representatives as well as the opposition Congress-HZhK alliance.
“This is the authorities’ style,” Levon Zurabian, a leading member of the alliance, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Thursday. “When they organize electoral fraud at a state level and when we present evidence of that, it turns out afterwards that the law was broken not by the person who gave vote bribes but the person who exposed them.”
Zurabian also decried the fact that the overwhelming majority of school principals in Armenia are affiliated with the HHK.
The HHK leadership has defended the controversial lawsuit, while denying that it told the school chiefs to take the UIC to court. Armen Ashotian, a deputy chairman of the party, said on Wednesday that the principals are right to defend themselves against “information aggression.”