- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 February 28, 2003 

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home

Before reacting to any other words on this page, please hear these:

Criticism of the current President of Armenia should not be read as a de-facto endorsement of his opponent.

Robert Kocharyan has a track record. In my opinion, primarily in the areas of human rights and rule of law, it is a record deserving harsh criticism. And, yes, I know about his success in improving the economy by 12 percent. But 12 percent of nothing is still nothing for many people whose lives have been made worse while a few, primarily Kocharyan cronies, have been made better over the past five years.

Still, he at least has a record, something to be judged by.

Stepan Demirchyan has a name. In my opinion, it is a name that no longer has relevance unless the son intends to resurrect the Soviet Union under which his powerful father flourished and, at least in nostalgia's revised history, gained adoration.

If a government administration could be built on spite, I've no doubt Demirchyan could establish a strong one. As I write this, his supporters have again gathered to shout their claim on the Presidency. But voters in Armenia at least deserve to know what he'd do with the Presidency if Demirchyan in fact gained it.

It's hard to imagination, for example, Demirchyan representing Armenia in a meeting of foreign diplomats and expecting to advance the national cause using "I am my father's son" as international policy.

It is hard, in fact, to place him in the role of diplomat at all, considering his apparent unease and halting manner of public speaking - so obvious even someone who doesn't speak Armenian can notice.

"None of the Above", then, becomes a legitimate contender, and here voters are actually offered that choice on their ballots.

Having clarified that . . .

I don't need to remind you that I am an outsider here, so forgive me if I'm too dense to understand the Armenian Justice System. If the President or the Prime Minister or the Minister of Justice or the Catholicos himself cares to explain, I stand eager to be enlightened.

A lot of arrests have been made here in the past several days, and I'm reminded of the situation about this time last year when a criminal case was being tried.

A court found Aghamal "Kuku" Harutyunyan, one of President Kocharyan's bodyguards, guilty of negligent manslaughter after Poghos Poghosyan was beaten to death at Poplovak café.

Kuku (and the nickname implies what you think it does) was sentenced to exactly zero days in prison. Did not do a single day of time, not a minute in fact. And, his year of suspended sentence having passed, I'm told that he is now in charge of a department in one of Yerevan's police stations.

A citizen was killed, a court ruled, and the killer was merely told to go to his room and behave himself until Daddy says it's okay to come out.

By contrast: Over the past several days at least 155 citizens have been arrested and 86 of them put in jail for up to 15 days because they behaved as "hooligans".

And if you are thinking that these people were arrested on the spot, perhaps for throwing bottles or invading government property or making threats, know that the arrests were commonly made days later at the "hooligans" homes. And, by the way, turns out that many of the ones tracked down by hard-working crime specialists hold staff positions in the campaign of the President's runoff opponent.

Let me belabor the point to add this:

On a September night at Poplovak, a member of the President's security staff killed a man in a bathroom of a café that holds about 200, with one entry, bordered on one side by water, and covered from above by another café. And, police could not find anybody who saw anything.

Yet out of crowds, estimated at up to about 40,000, spread over a half-mile or so in the wide open, Armenia's crack squad of police is able to pinpoint individual violations and duly protect the citizenry from the pressing threat of political word-slinging.

The sentence for manslaughter: No days. For name-calling: 15. Seems fair doesn't it?

Marching Orders
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  Photo of the week
  Photo of the week: Talk Time
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In the Name of the Father

At Wednesday's rally in support of Stepan Demirchyan, one demonstrator on a terrace at the Institute of Manuscripts expressed his support with a historic campaign poster from another Demirchyan era: "Trust Karen Demirchyan".



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