Statement in Connection with the Arrest and Detention of PFA Executive Board Member Garo Yegnukian
We, the undersigned members of Academic and Executive Boards of Policy Forum Armenia (PFA), are gravely concerned that Mr. Yegnukian—a member of PFA’s Executive Board, a repatriated Diaspora activist, intellectual, and father of five—continues to be held in pre-trial detention since July 19, 2016 despite the nature of charges brought against him and deteriorating health conditions.
As we learn from his attorney, Mr. Yegnukian is being accused by the investigative body for engaging in the following four activities:
- On July 18, 2016, after hearing from the members of the armed group “Daredevils of Sassoon” that the police were moving armored vehicles toward the occupied buildings, Mr. Yegnukian publicized that fact on Facebook;
- On July 19, 2016, he encouraged the movement of protesters from Liberty Square toward the area close to the police compound occupied by the “Daredevils”;
- Mr. Yegnukian spread disinformation (suggesting that food provided to the “Daredevils” by the police might be poisoned), thus discrediting the police; and
- He aspired to provide radio communication from outside to the “Daredevils”.
It is our understanding that these activities can in no way be construed as criminal, including under the Armenian legal code. Such charges undermine the individual’s right of free speech and reinforce the atmosphere of fear and intimidation in Armenia. Sadly, these trumped-up charges are merely an excuse for Armenia’s law-enforcers to exercise the much abused right to pre-trial detention used extensively to stifle political dissent.
Having said this, we join the Armenian Bar Association’s Armenian Rights Watch Committee in condemning the unlawful pre-trial detention of peaceful protesters in Yerevan, including that of Mr. Yegnukian. Our colleague—a well-known civil activist, who contributed so much to Armenia’s independence since late-1980s—should be released from prison immediately pending trial, if one ever takes place considering the nature of the above charges.
We call upon Armenia’s bilateral and multilateral partners to impress upon the regime of Serge Sargsyan that systematic repressions of political activists and dissidents cannot be tolerated and that the empty rhetoric about “political reform” will no longer be acceptable.
We stand with the people of Armenia as they continue their struggle for a more inclusive political system and better governance, against massive election fraud, systemic corruption, and oligarchy, factors that have prevented the economy from growing and weakened its defenses against external threats.
Gregory Aftandilian, Member of the Academic Board
Vladimir Airapetian, Member of the Academic Board
Viken Attarian, Member of the Academic Board
Hrach Gregorian, Member of the Academic Board
AnnaLee Saxenian, Member of the Academic Board
David Grigorian, Member of the Executive Board, Co-founder
Lusine Jagharian, Member of the Executive Board
Zaven Kalayjian, Member of the Executive Board
Cc: The United Stated Embassy in Armenia
Human Rights Watch
International Federation for Human Rights
Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner