YEREVAN UNDER PRESSURE TO FREE AILING EDITOR
Hasmik Smbatian

Armenialiberty.org
http://www.azatutyun. am/content/article/1789998.html
July 31 2009

Prison authorities in Armenia recommended on Friday the urgent release
of Arman Babajanian, a jailed newspaper editor diagnosed with a brain
tumor, amid mounting uproar from international civil rights groups
concerned about his deteriorating condition.

Babajanian, whose jail sentence ends on September 16, was taken to
a prison hospital last month after complaining of severe headaches
and vision problems. Doctors found a tumor in his brain during a
medical examination. Friends and supporters say he is in urgent need
of treatment at a civilian hospital.

The Paris-based group Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) expressed outrage
at the Armenian authorities' refusal so far to release the young
editor of the pro-opposition "Zhamanak" newspaper on parole. "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,"
RSF said in a statement on Friday.

"Babajanian has nearly completed his sentence so we fail to understand
why they insist on keeping him in prison," added RSF. "His condition
is serious and the tumor could leave him handicapped for life."

On Wednesday, a top representative of Human Rights Watch sent an
open letter to Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian urging the Armenian
government to provide Babajanian with "the highest possible standard
of treatment." "We are very concerned about his health," said Holly
Cartner, head of the New York-based organization's Europe and Central
Asia division.

The prison hospital administration on Friday discussed the matter and
decided to ask a state commission empowered to grant parole to convicts
to ensure Babajanian's early release. Speaking to RFE/RL by phone,
the editor said the commission dominated by senior law-enforcement
officials could meet later in the day.

But the office of state human rights ombudsman Armen Harutiunian,
which has a representative in the commission, could not confirm the
information. A spokesman for the office told RFE/RL that the body's
next regular meeting is scheduled for the second half of August. "We
have no information yet about any extraordinary meetings of the
commission," Grigori Grigorian said.

Babajanian was arrested in June 2006 and subsequently sentenced
to three-and-a-half years in prison for forging documents to evade
compulsory military service. The authorities have repeatedly refused
to free him on parole despite appeals from domestic and international
watchdogs, including RSF and HRW.