- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 March 21, 2003 

Aftermath: Rights' advocate in custody, 32 others arrested in post-election events

The head of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly in Vanadzor has been arrested for resisting arrest in connection with his attempt to organize a meeting protesting voting violations in the March 5 Presidential runoff.

Artur Sakunts was arrested last Saturday on two counts. In the first count, charging that Sakunts was illegally trying to organize a demonstration, Sakunts was found not guilty. But he was given a 10 day "administrative detention" sentence for resisting arrest.

A day before Sakunts' arrest, the HCA office was firebombed, causing about $1,000 worth of damage.

HCA placed observers at polling stations on March 5, and had called for a meeting last Saturday to protest what they said were violations.

About 50 people gathered outside the HCA office last Saturday, under a banner saying "Defend Your Vote". Police dispersed the crowd and took Sakunts away, saying they wanted to speak with him, but then arresting him.

Sakunts was jailed for 10 days.Human Rights Watch issued a statement condemning the arrest and citing other reports of abuse of power in the wake of the controversial election, won by President Robert Kocharyan.

In addition to Sakunts, at least 32 citizens have been arrested in the past four days on charges related to post-election tensions.

"Artur Sakunts should be freed immediately and unconditionally," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Asia division. "The arson attack on his office, and police abuse of their powers should be the focus of investigation - not a man who is advocating for Armenian voters' rights."

Representatives of nine local and international rights protecting organizations (Yerevan Press Club, Internews, Armenia's Helsinki Committee, etc.) attended a press conference in Vanadzor on Tuesday, demanding Sakunts' release.


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  Photo of the week
  Minor Protest
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Minor Protest

Members of "Mister and Miss Armenia", an organization that produces children's pageants and contests held a beauty protest outside the United States Embassy in Yerevan Thursday. The kids recently were in Iraq, and wanted to demonstrate their feelings to the US presence here.



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