Sunday, June 03, 2007

Wrongful Imprisonment: Activists call for release of Arzumanyan

Jun 1, 2007, Armenia
By Vahan Ishkhanyan - ArmeniaNow reporter

Eight political parties, eight newspapers and 21 human rights activists and intellectuals have released a statement calling for the release of former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Alexander Arzumanyan. Arzumanyan has been kept in the Kentron prison (of the National Security Service) since May 7.

He has been held on charges of money laundering, however his supporters say the charges are politically motivated and the arrest was because of Arzumanyan’s public support of oppositional ideologies.

Last week an appeals court upheld a lower court decision to hold Arzumanyan for two months. The statement by the rights activists and others is in response to the Court of Appeal decision.

Arzumanyan’s lawyers are now preparing documents to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Arzumanyan is the first citizen charged with money laundering in Armenia, since a law specific to the crime was introduced in the Criminal Code of Armenia in 2003. National Security Service officers found $55,000 in Arzumanyan’s apartment during a raid on his home. (See: Oppositionist Organizer Arrested)

The NSS says Arzumanyan conspired with Russian-Armenian millionaire Levon Markos to launder money through Armenia that Markos had obtained by allegedly illegal means.

Sashik Aghazaryan, a citizen of Krasnogorsk, Russia used media to address the NSS stating that the money that was sent to Arzumanyan was honestly earned by him, and demanded Arzumanyan’s release , and full compensation of the sum confiscated from the apartment.

However, the amount of the sum Arzumanyan is alleged in laundering remains unknown. Arzumanyan refuses to give testimony: “We state that we do not give testimony. Let them clarify if the money Arzumanyan received was gained by criminal ways,” Arzumanyan’s lawyer Hovik Arsenyan says: “if the money is legal, then one can send and receive even millions.”

Last week human rights and public activists held a discussion in the ‘168 Zham’ newspaper office in support of Arzumanyan.

“This case does not have any persepctives for court proceedings,” lawyer Vahe Grigoryan says. “Justice simply becomes a tool of solving political problems.”

Grigoryan speculated that the NSS (formerly the KGB) is returning to practices it carried out in soviet times, adding that portraits of soviet revolutionary and party leader and one-time Minister of Interior Felix Dzerzhinski adorn NSS office walls, symbolizing an atmosphere of oppression that Grigoryan says is encouraged by NSS. “Dzerzhinksi would never let Alik Arzumanyan free,” the lawyer says.

Karapet Rubinyan, former Vice Speaker of the National Assembly says today there are thousands of people who receive money from abroad, and can, therefore, be charged by the article in the Criminal Code for money laundering. The provision, he says, becomes a new type of weapon of subjection and settling of political accounts.

Arzumanyan founded an organization called Civil Disobedience Movement last autumn and organized a number of anti-governmental rallies.

The statement claims Alexander Arzumanyan was arrested for his political activities and is a political prisoner. His supporters have created a website ( ) on Arzumanyan’s behalf.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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