“As soon as I arrived in Yerevan I was arrested, placed in a small room, then in a transit zone, and my passport was confiscated,” Mourad Papazian said in a Facebook post on his return to the French capital.
“I knew that I was banned from Turkey and Azerbaijan. Today, I am banned from [Prime Minister Nikol] Pashinian's Armenia,” he wrote.
Papazian said immigration officers at the Zvartnots international airport gave no reason for his deportation. He claimed that it was ordered by Pashinian.
Armenia’s government and National Security Service (NSS), which is charge of border control, did not comment on what was a rare entry ban slapped on a prominent Armenian Diaspora figure.
Papazian is one of the two co-presidents of the CCAF, a coalition of leading French-Armenian organizations. He is also a member of the worldwide governing Bureau of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a pan-Armenian party in opposition to Pashinian’s government.
Dashnaktsutyun’s organization in Armenia has been at the forefront of regular street protests launched this spring by the country’s main opposition groups trying to topple the prime minister. Papazian reportedly took part in one of those rallies during a recent trip to Yerevan.
In a statement, the Dashnaktsutyun Bureau condemned his expulsion, linking it to recent arrests and prosecution of over a dozen party activists involved in the antigovernment protests. It charged that Pashinian is also trying to please Azerbaijan and Turkey.
The entry ban was also denounced by Ara Toranian, the other CCAF co-president and the publisher of the Paris-based magazine Nouvelles d’Armenie.
“Should this arbitrary measure be attributed to [Papazian’s] political position?” Toranian wrote on its website. “If this were the case -- and one cannot imagine other reasons -- this expulsion would constitute a serious threat to the freedom of opinion of the Diaspora Armenians and an attack on democracy.”
Writing on Facebook hours before boarding the flight to Yerevan, Papazian said he is leaving for Armenia to make a “big announcement for September.” He did not elaborate.