Tuesday, February 23, 2010

You see class, you just grab here and squeeze...

Unzipped's February 20 posting has this picture which I had not seen from the recent Youth-led opposition rally, where a policeman has his hand around the neck of one of the young protesters. The picture has brought forth some discussion. A1plus has also published the police report of that day's goings-on.

Let's say the comments on Unzipped's post are true, as is the police report, that the youth were inciting and yelling, cursing, disrupting traffic and were gathered illegally. Lets say all of that is true, as it very well may be. That does not, in any way, justify this behavior by the policeman. I am not defending what may have been the behavior of some of the protesters. I am only saying the following: even if that youth in the picture were physically attacking that policeman, or harming someone else, even then there are ways of subduing unarmed protesters without choking them - which to me, at least, seems extremely personal, and violent. That type of grabbing, choking hold is truly more befitting of a gang member, or dirty street fighter, not a policeman - but there's no surprise there.

And that violent behavior, that boundless lawlessness, the right they have given themselves to take away the rights and dignity of the people of Armenia, that self-righteousness of those in power, whether they are police or parliamentarians or those in the executive branch, is exactly why things have reached the point that have, and exactly why there is an opposition protesting in the streets.

[thanks to unzipped for publishing the pic - it is by Setrak Mkrtchyan, PanArmenian Photo, which by the way has more photos from the same occasion here]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sitting is threatening to the banditocracy

The march on the 19th had hundreds, and a sit-in. The red berets and police pushed the crowd, and it almost seems in the video that the people pushed back. Not violently, but firmly. A couple of times when one protester became more outspoken or obvious than the others, the police or red berets would try to grab them out of the crowd, and drag them off. According to a1plus, they did manage to grab Vahagn Gevorgyan, and drove off with him, letting him go 10 minutes later - a technique they've used before.

Here is the a1plus video (another from a1plus and a tert video):

In fact, according to lragir, six youth activits were taken to the police station: Tigran Arakelyan, Sargis Gevorgyan, Sergey Gasparyan, Varag Nahapetyan, Vahagn Gevorgyan and Areg Gevorgyan. One person, Sargis Ghazaryan, was taken to the hospital.

And in another lragir article, several of the mothers of those killed on March 1 were also at the March, and were pushed and punched.

The authorities are definitely scared - the numbers were bigger, the weather is warmer, and March 1 is coming up. Sit-ins, I think, are a great idea- I hope they continue.

We know they're willing to beat women and youth, and shoot into crowds at night, so I wont bother with that question. But how many times can Sargsyan use that solution? How far are police and red berets willing to go against individuals sitting, and in broad daylight?

On another note, did anyone see Bazaz in there? I thought I caught a glimpse, but I'm not sure - maybe he sat this one out?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Report on Attacks on Journalists

From A1plus

"Committee to Protect Journalists" has issued a report entitled "Attacks on the Press 2009: Armenia"

"The nation remained polarized by the fraud-marred 2008 presidential election won by Serzh Sargsyan, with large public protests and violent government reprisals continuing well into 2009. The global economic crisis caused layoffs in the mining industry and a decline in remittances from Russia, heightening public frustrations. The government sought to suppress critical debate over these issues, and journalists faced intolerance, hostility, and violence.

The government maintained control over most broadcast media, the primary news source in a poverty-afflicted country with poor newspaper distribution and low Internet penetration. The Council on Public Radio and Television, composed of presidential appointees, continued to set editorial guidelines for H1 state television, ensuring the station generated pro-government reports. Most private radio and television stations were owned by politicians and businessmen with close ties to the government, leading to significant self-censorship by journalists and limited critical news reporting on the airwaves, CPJ research showed.

One independent news outlet remained off the air. In February, a Yerevan appellate court dismissed lawsuits filed by the media outlet A1+ that sought reconsideration of its broadcast license applications. The station, pulled from the airwaves in 2002 in reprisal for its critical news reports, has seen a dozen license applications rejected by the government's broadcast regulator. (A1+ has continued operating as an independent online news agency.) The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2008 that the regulator violated the European Convention on Human Rights by repeatedly rejecting the applications without explanation.

Other forms of government obstruction were reported on a regular basis. In January, bailiffs in a Yerevan court prevented journalists from attending the trial of seven opposition activists charged with illegal participation in 2008 protests, according to local press reports. In August, the police chief in the northwestern city of Gyumri prevented a crew from Shant TV, a private station, from covering protests in front of the mayor's office concerning the closing of a local market, local press reports said. That same month, parliament issued new media accreditation rules that authorized suspensions of journalists whose reports "do not correspond to reality" or that disrespect the "lawful interests, honor, and dignity" of members of parliament, according to local press reports. Parliamentary staff members were given wide discretion to administer the rules.

Violent attacks against journalists continued amid a climate of impunity. On March 13, security guards at the State Linguistics University in Yerevan knocked freelance photographer Gagik Shamshian to the ground and kicked him after he tried to photograph students protesting alleged faculty corruption, according to press reports. Shamshian was hospitalized for six days with internal bleeding. A security guard was briefly questioned by police but was not charged.

In April, three unidentified assailants attacked Argishti Kivirian, editor of the independent news Web site Armenia Today, outside his home in Yerevan, according to press reports. The assailants beat him with clubs, leaving the editor hospitalized with a concussion and severe bruising. Kivirian's colleagues and family linked the attack to his professional activities, noting that he had received prior work-related threats. Lusine Sahakaian, a prominent defense lawyer and the editor's wife, criticized police for failing to collect evidence at the crime scene, the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. Armenia Today's Web site was plagued by denial-of-service attacks throughout the year-including a series of attacks that coincided with the assault on Kivirian.

A third attack also generated no arrests and little evident police investigation. Nver Mnatsakanian, a prominent commentator for Shant TV, was punched and knocked to the ground by two unidentified men as he was walking home in Yerevan on the evening of May 6, according to press reports. Mnatsakanian, who was forced to cancel his show for two days, criticized police for claiming the attack was the result of mistaken identity.

Attacks spiked in May, several of them related to a Yerevan mayoral election that was marred by allegations of fraud. Gohar Vezirian, a reporter for the opposition newspaper Chorrord Ishkhanutyun, was beaten by supporters of pro-government candidate Gagik Beglarian after she informed an election commissioner that the candidate's supporters had unlawfully entered a polling station in Yerevan, according to the news Web site EurasiaNet. Election officials stood by when pro-government supporters threatened Nelly Gregorian, a reporter for the independent daily Aravot, confiscated her camera and erased photos at a polling station in Yerevan, according to the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).

Law enforcement officials were either ambivalent or hostile to the press. Col. Hovhannes Tamamian, a senior police investigator, told reporters at a May 8 press conference that police were working hard to arrest assailants in the attacks-but he suggested journalists should arm themselves in defense, according to international press reports. In August, when prosecutors were angered by media criticism of an investigation into the activities of an outspoken environmental activist, a spokesman for the prosecutor general warned journalists that the office "regularly sends publications to police for assessment," IWPR reported. The comment was seen as a veiled threat that journalists would be harassed if they continued reporting on the case.

Arman Babadzhanian, 33, editor of the opposition daily Zhamanak Yerevan and a critic of law enforcement officials, was released from prison in August after doctors diagnosed a brain tumor, according to press reports. In 2006, he was sentenced to four years in prison after publishing an article that questioned the independence of the Yerevan prosecutor's office. Babadzhanian had been convicted of forging documents to skirt military service; he did not dispute the allegation, but he and press freedom advocates, including CPJ, said the prosecution was selective and retaliatory. Babadzhanian underwent surgery outside the country and was recovering in late year."

Friday, February 12, 2010

And he just keeps taking and taking...

This article came out the other day in Haykakan Zhamanak - as I didn't see this much detail anywhere else in English - I put it up myself...

4 Billion Dollars Plus 3.3 Million Drams

We learned yesterday that that a lien was placed on the property of “Haykakan Zhamanak” publisher Dareskizb, Ltd., on the basis of a demand by the family of Robert Kocharyan that they be paid the court ordered 3,300,000 drams.

We should remind the reader that as a result of the “Kocharyan vs. Haykakan Zhamanak” civil suit, the court had imposed a fine of that exact amount on our newspaper. And the occasion for the fine was the publication in our newspaper recounting the drunken debauchery of Kocharyan’s youngest son, Levon, in Dubai. The Kocharyans had gone to court and demanded 15 million drams from Haykakan Zhamanak for slander. At the end, the result of that disgraceful trial was that the court set a fine of 3, 300,000 drams on our newspaper.

Yesterday, we paid that amount at the court to lift the lien on our property. Thus, the Kocharyans were able to add another 3,300,000 drams to the four billion dollars they had looted from Armenia.

But we paid that amount with pleasure, because it is not for nil. After all, the day is not far when they will return to the people not only that three million drams, but also the other four billion dollars. No tyrant can digest what he has devoured.

[The picture is from HZH as well]

News items and theories abound...

I first saw this on HNazarian's blog, and it is in the news as well. Armen Sargsyan is confirmed to have been arrested and accused of treason for allegedly leaking documents of Order #0038, which revealed that the preparation for military involvement in the March 1 events occurred on February 23. This recently got PACE in a huff, and according to the draft resolution apparently they now think March 1 was Coup d'Etat attempt. A tad slow, methinks, but that's another story.
Armen Sargsyan, by the way, is the cousin of the late Vazgen Sargsyan. And here is the PACE document from 3 February, 2010, calling it a Coup d'Etat.

Speaking of PACE, the Political Prisoners Committee and the Youth Committee of the Armenian National Congress had sent out a letter to Ambassador Yanez Lenarcic
Director, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, arguing for the public release of the March 1 report. Here it is, in English, and in Armenian.
Interestingly enough, there have been some rumblings about Pashinyan recently, including by PACE.

And just today, SIL group was invaded by the police department, and Saribek Sukiasyan, brother of Khatachur Sukiasyan, was taken in to custody. The theories abound as to why, but there is no clear answer, yet. I first saw that one on Aramazd's blog, and the comments are accumulating quickly...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

And now for a comedy break... that's accurate, too!

This video was apparently made in 2007, but has been circulating on Facebook. It is one of the most intelligent, hilarious, pieces of work I think I have ever seen, possibly in any media format, ever. It is so well done, and so accurate, on so many levels, that I think any attempt to explain why might take away from it.
Maybe I'll try later. But what I keep asking myself, while I watch it over and over, is how on earth the actors kept from laughing on screen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I feel bad for the Ostriches... Civilitas, Oskanyan, and US foreign policy

Interestingly enough, just moments before I opened my email, I was chatting with someone regarding Civilitas. And we were chatting in particular about Oskanyan, and in line with my recent analogies of money laundering, I stated that my impression is that Oskanyan and his Civilitas do for the face of democracy in Armenia what Island banks do in money laundering.
But why do I say this? Well, I have made my feelings clear in the past, both in individual posts and even in essay-format a while back. But, I'll put it this way. To me, it seems, that if one were truly, sincerely, concerned about the voice of civil duty, of civil rights, of democracy, and all else of which they speak, then as observers, we should (not) expect the following...

-To hear the voice of Oskanyan in place of Kocharyan's during March 1-2, 2008

-To then hear Oskanyan's voice backtracking, covering his own tracks, with no
reasonable explanation, apology, or true criticism of the government, or of the fraud, violence, oppression and murder that took place

-I would not expect utter and complete silence with regards to the existence of political prisoners in Armenia - whether it be Nikol Pashinyan, or Ashot Manukyan, or more than 10 others... Or Sasun Mikaelyan, who, it appears, was being denied appropriate medical attention for weeks while in prison...

-I would expect a loud voice when residents of homes just around the corner from the Civilitas office on posh Northern Avenue were evicted from their homes, under dubious circumstances

-I would expect protest and criticism from Civilitas when the next generation, the voice of hope and dreams, the future of Armenia, was beaten time and time again while exercising their basic CIVIL rights...

And the list goes on... So, you can imagine my reaction when my inbox showed a forward (of a forward of a forward) from Civilitas which contained the following exerpt, especially in light of my impression of the ostrich-like approach to foreign affairs the US and the rest of the West has taken:

Finally, with support from the US Embassy in Armenia, we are helping nearly a dozen of Armenia’s regional libraries become centers of civil society, by improving their physical quarters and acquiring books.

It's a feel good party all around - at least, for those who have nothing to lose.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

US State Department, mold, and the Armenian Diaspora

Word is that the meeting the US state department and the limited diasporan groups were going to have on Feb 9 has been postponed.

Maybe its because the ARF put up a big stink, because their "colleagues" weren't going to be there. Maybe other organizations who weren't even listed put up a stink. Maybe its because the room where they were going to meet has a mold problem.

I would like to think it's not the mold. I would like to think it is because, for whatever reason, the State Department is actually starting to think about the situation at hand on a deeper level. Maybe they have realized that this is not a simple problem with a simple solution, and that every solution has consequences, and repercussions.

But, I hear that mold is very dangerous for your health, so if that's the reason for the postponement, then they did the right thing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

False Opposition, Smokescreens, and the Convenient Gullibility of the US

The ANC put out a statement the other day, that included this sentence, which has been echoing in my head since then:
The Sargsyan administration had also estimated that that support would allow the administration to suppress the opposition's struggle for democratic liberties and creation of legitimate authorities and to create a governable "nationalist" opposition. The objective for such a false opposition had to show that it was against Sargsyan when it came to national issues without such criticism that would reveal the regime's flaws and endanger its existence.

The idea of a false, governable opposition is not new. But it is obvious to see for those who choose to look. Shutting out the opposition, the voices of democracy, seems to be the strategy of not only the ruling Armenian regime, but of the West as well. PACE is trying to forget that they have turned their back on democracy by shutting out any opposition representation, and the US, in its upcoming State Department meeting with Diasporan organizations, is doing the same thing.

And while the Armenian Weekly has an editorial about the "Politics of Exclusion," the mere fact that (most if not all of) the Diasporan organizations mentioned in the article all feed, in one way or another, with direct or indirect support, financial investments, or otherwise, the ruling criminal regime - is completely missing from the article. The argument amongst themselves over who gets to go to this meeting is farcical, because, in essence, the groups who are going, and the ones whom they demand be invited, all say the same thing - its okay to support this government. The argument over who is invited doesn't even include, for example, the SDHP, one of the only voices that has actually spoken up against March 1, against false elections, against political prisoners. A real effort, real desire, to hear the voices of the US Armenian Diaspora would include all points of view, and all sides would want that variety of viewpoints represented in the meeting. My comment in response to the article is posted below it.

On the other hand, a Letter to the Editor in MassisWeekly (English section, p3, definitely worth reading) addresses almost exactly that point - that maybe, just maybe, these powers that be want to ignore, want to not see, what is really going on. And their actions are not only against democracy and human rights, but in the end, against stability. And PACE and the US, and the rest of the West, if not for the basic principles of Democracy and Human rights, for moral and ethical reasons, then for the interest of their own countries and organizations, should take a slightly longer look at what is really happening.

The ARF, the AAA, the ANC, the ARS, the Knights of Vartan, all those guys, invited or not - they may fight amongst themselves about Turkish-Armenian relations, Diasporan issues, and the like, but they have made these issues (and themselves) the priority, more important than a strong, democratic, just Armenia. That argument sure is a good distraction, a good safe distraction, and a set of criticisms that doesn't reveal the true flaws, as the ANC statement said...

If you agree, let the US state department know. Call them, Skype them, its cheap. Tell them that the ANCA, the ARF, the AAA, these guys don't represent all Armenians, these guys are a distraction, even a smokescreen...

Here's the number I have for the Armenia desk at the US state department: (202) 647 - 6576. I'm sure they want to hear what we ALL have to say.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Banditocracy does not begin to describe...

On January 29, an article came out in the Russian paper Versia about the business investments and holdings of the oligarchs in Armenia, with a special focus on Kocharyan and Sargsyan, with a promise of more of the article to come. The article seems to have made quite a splash, as aside from being posted and reposted on Facebook, it was sent to me by numerous different and unrelated people - most recently someone posted it in the comments section of one of my related posts (Airports, Fruits, Banks and Mail 26/10/2009). Thinking that perhaps there are those who still haven't seen it, I thought I'd post it.
I don't know anything about the paper itself, nor about the author, Igor Petrov, and very little about Karahanyan, who is mentioned in the article. So, among other things, I don't know about the sources of the article.
I do know that much of this information was already known, and had been circulated by word of mouth and perhaps even in some written form or another, though I have not seen it anywhere in as much detail as it is here. Significant reference to some of the information was made in the past, including, at least in very general terms, during opposition speeches.
For those who do not read Russian, the translation from Google's Translator is here.
Below are some highlights...:
To specify all of the above, the head of the Armenian National Club Miabanutyun Moscow Smbat Karakhanian said: "I can confidently tell you what hold the first persons in Armenia:
Ex-President Robert Kocharian (including through nominees and family members):
- Artsakhbank
- MAP (50%)
- Armeksimbank (co-owner)
- Unibank (co-owner)
- ABB Bank (co-owner)
- Renko Construction
- Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine (90%)
- Ardshininvestbank (over 50%)
- Converse-bank (according to different sources from 30 to 50%)
- Complex Kaputan Sevan - 100% (through Artak Voskanian)
- Medical Center Nairi (50% together with the Minister of Health Harutiun Kushkyanom)
- Brands (Emporio Armani, Stefano Ricci, etc.)
- Construction company "BiShin" (100%)
- Construction company "Downtown Yerevan" (through the eldest son Sedrak Kocharian)
- TV Company "H2" - 50% (co-owners Samvel Mairapetyan and current Vice-Prime Minister Armen Gevorgyan)
- Chain stores SAS (50% - owned by Robert Kocharyan through Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian)
- Network of shops "Star" (30% owned Sedrak Kocharian - eldest son Robert Kocharyan's)
- "Noah" konyachno-vinovodochny Mill - 50% (co-owner Gagik Tsarukyan)
- Airport Zvartnots - 50% (30-year lease, co-owner of a citizen of Argentina, Eduardo Eurnekian)
- "Armenian post" - 50% (in S. Kocharian's eldest son, the other co-owner of a citizen of Argentina, Eduardo Eurnekian)
- Import of mobile phones - 80% of the market
- Large shopping complex in Moscow (co-owner Samvel Karapetyan)
- Casino in Moscow (along with Shakro)
- Representation of Toyota Company in Armenia
- In addition Robert Kocharyan, as an independent director, member of the Board of Directors of Russia's AFK Sistema. This circumstance, experts say, requires his assets under the control of the corporation.
Assets, which he previously owned or had a substantial share:

- "K-Telecom" (trade mark "VivaCell")
- Agro-industries Ltd. (1870 ha)
- Golden Palace Hotel in Yerevan (the real owner of 83% was Sedrak Kocharian)
- AraratCement "- 33%
- "Converse" (through the eldest son Sedrak Kocharian). The bank got into the field of view of U.S. intelligence, when it became clear that through his accounts laundered money (about 800-900 million) a number of front companies and banks linked to international terrorism. The scandal led to the resignation of President Bank S. Nasibian and sale of assets of the family to another owner E. Eurnekian. However, there are sufficient grounds for believing that the transaction for the sale of shares S. Kocharian was false. In fact he remains a co-owner of Converse.
President Serzh Sargsyan (including through nominees, and his brother Alexander and her husband Mikael Minasyan):
- Assets of "Flash" (co-owner Barsegh Beglarian)
- The network of filling stations
- 3 wine factory in Nagorno-Karabakh (Messrs. Stepanakert, Martuni, Karmir Suka)
Distillery (g.Karmir Suka, 1 / 3 of all vodka sold in Armenia, 2.3 million liters)
- Bank "Ararat"
- Chain restaurant "Ararat" (about 30 pieces)
- Assets of the company "MICA" (co-owner Mikhail Bagdasarov):
- Armavia
- The company's Mika on imports of fossil fuels, gasoline, kerosene (monopoly), diesel fuel
- FC MIKA (estimated 40-50 million)
- Mika - Cement
- Construction company "MIKA House (more than 5 large elite houses in Yerevan)
- Hotel Complex in Moscow
- Private house in London
- VTB Bank (bought for 300 thousand dollars, sold for $ 28 million 100%)
- Network of stores "Dzhazve"
- Being as defense minister, was associated with an intermediary with the supply of small arms by private producers of Bulgaria in the Third World countries ",
- Through front men in-law M. Minasian is the owner of television "Armenakob" and "Ai TV".