Reporters Without Borders hails newspaper editor Arman Babajanian’s release on 4 August after a state commission decided he should be allowed to receive treatment for a cancerous brain tumour in a public hospital. The founder and editor of the daily Jamanak Erevan, Babajanian was given a three-year jail sentence in 2006 for evading military service.
“We are relieved by Babajanian’s release,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We had written to President Serzh Sargsyan urging him to pardon Babajanian. This decision suggests that the Armenian authorities do not always turn a deaf ear to appeals from civil society.”
The press freedom organisation added: “Nonetheless, Babajanian’s condition would not have had so many complications if he had been freed when the brain tumour was detected a year ago/”
The authorities had repeatedly rejected requests for his release until 4 August. As he left the Yerevan prison, Babajanian told waiting
31.07.2008 Authorities urged to pardon jailed journalist with brain tumour
Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the refusal of the Armenian authorities to release journalist Arman Babajanian(photo Armtown.com) on health grounds. Held since 2006, Babajanian has been diagnosed as having a brain tumour. His condition recently worsened and he is now in a prison hospital. He is in the process of losing his sight and needs urgent hospitalisation.
“We are extremely shocked by the attitude of the authorities, who have turned a deaf ear to the appeals of doctors and human rights activists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Babajanian has nearly completed his sentence so we fail to understand why they insist on keeping him in prison. His condition is serious and the tumour could leave him handicapped for life.”
Reporters Without Borders has written to President Serzh Sargsyan urging him to pardon Babajanian.
Babajanian has been held since 26 June 2006, when he was arrested on a charge of evading military service under article 327 of the criminal code. The three-and-a-half-year sentence he received was condemned at the time by Reporters Without Borders as “disproportionate”. He is due to complete it at the start of September. All of his lawyer’s requests for early release have been rejected.
The founder and editor of Jamanak Yerevan, a daily published in Yerevan and Los Angeles. Babajanian was critical of the government. An article published in the newspaper on 13 July 2006, two and a half weeks after his arrest, referred to the highly sensitive subject of Armenia’s dispute since 1994 with neighbouring Azerbaijan over the Upper Karabakh region. It was headlined “Peace is the only solution.”
An opposition demonstration was held under the banner of “Freedom!” in Yerevan on 29 July to demand Babajanian’s immediate release.