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Armenia31 October 2006

“Disproportionate” prison sentence for newspaper editor who skipped military service

Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay today at the four-year prison sentence passed on Jamanak Erevan editor Arman Babajanian for evading military service, noting claims that it could have been politically-motivated. A court began a week ago to hear an appeal against the sentence, passed on 8 September.

“We are stunned by the disproportionate nature of this sentence,” the press freedom organisation said. “Babajanian admitted evading military service (article 327 of the criminal code) but denied the charge of presenting false papers (article 324). Although he has cooperated with the authorities, he has been held without interruption since his arrest on 27 June.”

Erevan Press Club president Boris Navasardian believes the case was probably politically motivated. “The sentences for this kind of offence are usually less than three years,” he told Reporters Without Borders. “There are also legal alternatives to imprisonment. Babajanian may have been dealt with severely because of the political nature of his work. Jamanak Erevan has been very critical of the Armenian authorities from the moment it was launched.”

The daily Jamanak Erevan began being published in Armenia on 16 May after several years of being produced in Los Angeles. Babajanian was arrested less than two months after its launch in Erevan. Despite many protests and calls for his release, he spent his 30th birthday in prison.

He has tried to continue working from prison, and managed to write an article for the 13 July issue about the 12-year-old dispute with Azerbaijan over the upper Karabakh region that was headlined “Peace is the only solution.”

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