Agence France Presse
March 31, 2004 Wednesday 8:44 AM Eastern Time

Rights activist attacked in Armenia amid protests

YEREVAN, March 31

Unkown assailants have attacked a top rights campaigner and reporter
in the former Soviet republic of Armenia, leaving him hospitalized,
his friends said Wednesday.

Mikael Danileyan, who heads the Helsinki Federation rights group in
Armenia and also works as an independent journalist, was attacked by
unkown assailants near the entrance to his home Tuesday morning,
leaving him in serious condition.

"Mikael thinks that what happened was an act of state-sponsored
terror linked to his human rights activities," Anna Akopyan of the
PEN club representing authors told reporters.

Tension has been recently running high in the struggling Caucasus
republic amid opposition fury with President Robert Kocharyan's rule

Armenia's opposition has contested Kocharyan's April 2002 re-election
to the small Caucasus nation's Constitutional Court. The court ruled
the election valid but, after mass demonstrations, suggested that a
confidence referendum be held.

In neighboring Georgia, mass rallies organized by US-educated
opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili late last year resulted in the
peaceful overthrow of veteran leader Eduard Shevardnadze, following
controversial parliamentary elections.