Dear Prime Minister Sargsyan and Minister Danielyan,
We are writing to encourage you to ensure the release of the well-known journalist and editor, Arman Babajanian, from prison based on his pending request for parole.
Arman Babajanian is the founder and editor-in-chief of Zhamanak Daily, an independent daily newspaper published in Yerevan and Los Angeles, California. He was arrested on June 26, 2006 on charges of evading military service and falsification of documents related to his military service. He admitted to the charges, paid the required fines, and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. Babajanian has now served two years in prison. The criminal code does not specifically envision imprisonment for evading military service, although when sentences are issued, they are typically for 2-3 years.
Babajanian, given his good conduct, is now eligible for parole. His request last year for parole based on good conduct was denied. We consider the additional 1.5 years that he has yet to serve are disproportionate to the offense, and call on you to review his case and grant him early release.
Babajanian’s case has been recognized by Human Rights Watch in its 2007 and 2008 World Reports, by other major international human rights groups, and by the U.S. State Department, as reflected in its Human Rights Report for Armenia for 2007.
We therefore ask for your intervention in urging the responsible authorities to support the request that would afford him his earned opportunity for early release on good conduct.
Babajanian’s release would send a positive signal to both Armenia’s international partners and to the Armenian public that you and other senior officials are concerned about the present critical state of human rights in Armenia and taking concrete steps to address particular concerns.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Europe and Central Asia Division