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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06YEREVAN933 2006-07-12 12:58:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

ARMENIAN MEDIA CONCERNED ABOUT TABLOID EDITOR'S

Tags:   PHUM PGOV PREL AM 
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VZCZCXRO6606
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHYE #0933/01 1931258
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 121258Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3513
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 000933 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/CARC, DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2016
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL AM
SUBJECT: ARMENIAN MEDIA CONCERNED ABOUT TABLOID EDITOR'S
PRE-TRIAL DETENTION


Classified By: DCM A. F. Godfrey for reasons 1.4 (b, d).

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SUMMARY
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1. (C) The Armenian media is concerned about the arrest and
pre-trial detention of the editor of Zhamanak Yerevan, Arman
Babajanyan, on charges of document fraud and the evasion of
military service. Babajanyan reportedly confessed to the
charges that he forged documents between 1996 and 2002 to get
out of military service. He is currently in pre-trial
detention at a Yerevan prison, which has the media community
concerned that his arrest was motivated by his position as an
"opposition" journalist. The Prosecutor General's (PG)
office maintains that draft dodgers are commonly subject to
pre-trial detention. Although the lag time before the arrest
is somewhat suspicious, our view is that Babajanyan likely
committed fraud, and that this is not a case of violation of
human rights or press freedom. The OSCE and the EU
Presidency have opted not to get involved in the case. End
Summary.



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THE MEDIA RESPONDS


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2. (SBU) The media reacted immediately to Babajanyan's June
26 arrest. Employees of Zhamanak Yerevan protested outside
the PG office June 27-29, maintaining that Babajanyan's
position as an editor was the real reason for the arrest.
(Note: Zhamanak Yerevan is a small newspaper that was
published only in Los Angeles until just recently, when it
began publication in Yerevan. It is not a hardline
opposition paper, and has more in common with a local
tabloid, Haykakan Zhamanak, that makes a business of bashing
all high-ranking officials, including the U.S. Ambassador.
End Note.) Zhamanak Yerevan employees are the only ones who
have protested against the actual charges. Other protests
have focused on Babajanyan's pre-trial detention.



3. (U) Last week, the heads of a number of press and human
rights organizations issued a joint statement calling on the
PG's office to lighten Babajanyan's pretrial punishment.
"The choice of arrest as a preventative punishment ... is
taken to be a blow on the newspaper, and, secondly, is viewed
as an infringement of the right of a journalist, moreover, an
opposition journalist, to freedom of expression, and as a
response to his activities." A number of newspaper editors
also published a joint statement questioning the nature of
Babajanyan's pre-trial arrangement. They argued that
subjecting the editor to pre-trial detention suggests that
his crimes are graver than evasion of military service or
document fraud.



4. (SBU) The head of the Investigative Journalists
Association, Edik Baghdasaryan, did not dispute the charges
against Babajanyan, but told us that, had Babajanyan not been
the editor of an "opposition" newspaper, the government
probably would not have charged him. The head of the Yerevan
Press Club, Boris Navasardyan, told us that, though he could
not be 100 percent certain the arrest was politically
motivated, the nature of the pre-trial arrangements made it
appear that way. Navasardyan, who signed the statement
issued by the press and human rights organizations, told us
the group would like the government to release Babajanyan
pending his trial so that he could continue to work for his
newspaper. He noted that the PG's office granted his request
to obtain the name of the lawyer who represented Babajanyan
during his pre-trial hearing. Navasardyan said he thought
that was a good sign, and indicated that the PG's office
would at least consider his request that the pre-trial
arrangements be downgraded to bail or house arrest.



--------------------------


THE PG'S SIDE


--------------------------





5. (SBU) The PG's office released a statement shortly after
Babajanyan's arrest saying that pre-trial detention is
commonly applied in cases of evasion of military service.
Investigator Samvel Sinanyan told us that, in 2005, 67 men
were charged with evasion of military service, and that all
of them were held in pre-trial detention. Sinanyan said it
logically followed that Babajanyan, who is also accused of
document forgery, making his crime more serious, would also
be subject to pre-trial detention. Babajanyan was charged
with forging marriage and birth certificates between 1996
(the year he was supposed to start his military service) and
2002 to prove that he was married with children, which would

YEREVAN 00000933 002 OF 002


have freed him from his obligation to serve in the army.



--------------------------


INTERNATIONALS STAY AWAY


--------------------------





6. (C) The international community appears to be ignoring the
issue. The German DCM approached us on behalf of the EU
Presidency to determine whether post would get involved, but
before we could respond, she decided against interfering.
The OSCE also chose to keep its distance, given Babajanyan's
confession.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





7. (C) While we do not believe that Babajanyan's arrest is
politically motivated, the question remains as to why the
PG's office waited so long to prosecute him. Sinanyan told
us the military police had the lead on the investigation, and
transferred the case to the PG's office once they had enough
evidence. This is unusual, as the military police are
usually quick on the draw to nab draft dodgers. The fact
that it took so long does lend some credence to the
journalists' concerns, however, Babajanyan confessed to the
crimes, and no one seems to be arguing that he is innocent.
EVANS