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Tensions between President Serzh Sarkisian and his former main coalition partner rose further on Monday when the Armenian parliament debated controversial criminal proceedings launched former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized details of the fraud case as he asked deputies to lift the fellow lawmaker’s legal immunity from prosecution.

Oskanian again strongly denied it as a “political order” directed against himself and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the National Assembly.

Information about the criminal case has been scant until now, with Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) only alleging money-laundering stemming from a lavish donation made to the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank founded by Oskanian, by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. in 2010. The money was generated by the sale of a construction materials plant that was built by Huntsman in Yerevan in the early 1990s. 

In his speech at the National Assembly, Hovsepian said that $1.4 million in proceeds from that deal was transferred to one of Oskanian’s Armenian bank accounts in January 2011. He said the Syrian-born former minister not only failed to deposit the sum with a separate Civilitas account but also spent more than $181,000 of it “for personal purposes.”

“I cannot say publicly which restaurant or hotel bills were paid with that money,” Hovsepian said when pressed by some lawmakers. He said the NSS should therefore be allowed to charge Oskanian with large-scale embezzlement and money laundering.

Corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code carry between 4 and 12 years’ imprisonment.

Oskanian strongly denied misappropriating any portion of the donation, saying that “every penny” of it was transferred to the Civilitas account on Saturday. He as well as several other deputies argued neither Huntsman nor the Civilitas management has filed any complaints about the matter.

x

Armenia — Armenia’s General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian (R) asks the parliament to allow NA deputy Vartan Oskanian’s prosecution in a criminal case of alleged money laundering, 1Oct, 2012

​​Hovsepian dismissed this argument, saying that law-enforcement authorities do not need such a complaint to launch a criminal investigation. He also described as coincidence the fact that the case was opened shortly after Oskanian, who served as foreign minister from 1998-2008, returned to the political arena and began harshly criticizing the government early this year.

Oskanian insisted, however, that the case is politically motivated. “Armenia is preparing for presidential elections and this case is an attempt to exert strong pressure on the BHK ahead of those elections,” he told the parliament. “These authorities are talking to political opponents in the language of hostage takers.”

The BHK leadership likewise claimed to be facing “political persecution” when it reacted to the Armenian authorities’ decision to prosecute Oskanian on Friday. A senior BHK lawmaker, Naira Zohrabian, said during Monday’s debate that the party’s parliamentary faction will walk out of the parliament building when the mostly pro-government deputies vote on the chief prosecutor’s petition on Tuesday. Zohrabian said the BHK will also consider boycotting all parliament sessions in protest.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party said they will also boycott Tuesday’s parliament vote. They too alleged political motives behind the case.

Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian linked it with the presidential ballot due in February. “Either everyone or no one must be stripped of immunity,” Hovannisian told a news conference. “That includes the current and former presidents along with their staffs, the current and former prime ministers and ministers and their staffs, the current and former parliament speakers and deputies.”

Hovannisian said at the same time that Oskanian himself is responsible for past government “repressions” because of having been a key member of former President Robert Kocharian’s administration. The Zharangutyun leader singled out the Kocharian government’s deadly post-election crackdown on the opposition in March 2008.

Nikol Pashinian, a deputy from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), similarly cited Oskanian’s alleged responsibility for the 2008 bloodshed. Pashinian, who spent nearly two years in prison as part of that crackdown, said this is a key reason why he will vote for Oskanian’s prosecution despite considering the accusations politically motivated.

It was not clear if the six other HAK deputies will do the same. HAK representatives said their parliamentary faction will announce its stance on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the majority of parliament seats, again effectively confirmed its intention to strip Oskanian of his parliamentary immunity. Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, also denied any government pressure on the BHK. “We were singing the same song as recently as six or seven months ago,” he said.

The BHK was represented in the Armenian government by four ministers until June. Gagik Tsarukian, its top leader close to Kocharian, decided to pull out of the governing coalition following parliamentary elections controversially won by the HHK.

As the parliament discussed Oskanian’s fate several dozen people, most of them Civilitas employees, demonstrated outside the National Assembly building to voice their solidarity with the ex-minister. They booed HHK deputies entering the building and held placards denouncing the ruling party. One protester also carried a banner saying that “The people are with Tsarukian.”

Salpi Ghazarian, the Civilitas director, was among the protesters. “I hope that there are enough honest, sincere, caring and intelligent people in the parliament,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If their aim is to punish Vartan Oskanian for some political considerations, such punishment will primarily hurt Armenia’s reputation.”

Earlier in the day, Civilitas circulated statements by two of its Honorary Board members, Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and U.S.-Armenian rock singer Serj Tankian, condemning the case. “The persecution of Vartan Oskanian is a deplorable and politically motivated action which is extremely dangerous to the health of the country,” said Egoyan.

Source: RFE/RLOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Government v Vardan Oskanian – A Case of Political Persecution or a Crafty Political Ploy?
  2. Persecution ahead of presidential vote?: MP Oskanian insists criminal case against Civilitas “political order”
  3. Al Jazeera refers to Vartan Oskanian and Civilitas Foundation case (video)
  4. “Oskanian Case” reveals extent of political struggle in Armenia ahead of presidential campaign
  5. U.S. Envoy Questions Criminal Case Against Oskanian

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Tensions between President Serzh Sarkisian and his former main coalition partner rose further on Monday when the Armenian parliament debated controversial criminal proceedings launched former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized details of the fraud case as he asked deputies to lift the fellow lawmaker’s legal immunity from prosecution.

Oskanian again strongly denied it as a “political order” directed against himself and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the National Assembly.

Information about the criminal case has been scant until now, with Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) only alleging money-laundering stemming from a lavish donation made to the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank founded by Oskanian, by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. in 2010. The money was generated by the sale of a construction materials plant that was built by Huntsman in Yerevan in the early 1990s. 

In his speech at the National Assembly, Hovsepian said that $1.4 million in proceeds from that deal was transferred to one of Oskanian’s Armenian bank accounts in January 2011. He said the Syrian-born former minister not only failed to deposit the sum with a separate Civilitas account but also spent more than $181,000 of it “for personal purposes.”

“I cannot say publicly which restaurant or hotel bills were paid with that money,” Hovsepian said when pressed by some lawmakers. He said the NSS should therefore be allowed to charge Oskanian with large-scale embezzlement and money laundering.

Corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code carry between 4 and 12 years’ imprisonment.

Oskanian strongly denied misappropriating any portion of the donation, saying that “every penny” of it was transferred to the Civilitas account on Saturday. He as well as several other deputies argued neither Huntsman nor the Civilitas management has filed any complaints about the matter.

x

Armenia — Armenia’s General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian (R) asks the parliament to allow NA deputy Vartan Oskanian’s prosecution in a criminal case of alleged money laundering, 1Oct, 2012

​​Hovsepian dismissed this argument, saying that law-enforcement authorities do not need such a complaint to launch a criminal investigation. He also described as coincidence the fact that the case was opened shortly after Oskanian, who served as foreign minister from 1998-2008, returned to the political arena and began harshly criticizing the government early this year.

Oskanian insisted, however, that the case is politically motivated. “Armenia is preparing for presidential elections and this case is an attempt to exert strong pressure on the BHK ahead of those elections,” he told the parliament. “These authorities are talking to political opponents in the language of hostage takers.”

The BHK leadership likewise claimed to be facing “political persecution” when it reacted to the Armenian authorities’ decision to prosecute Oskanian on Friday. A senior BHK lawmaker, Naira Zohrabian, said during Monday’s debate that the party’s parliamentary faction will walk out of the parliament building when the mostly pro-government deputies vote on the chief prosecutor’s petition on Tuesday. Zohrabian said the BHK will also consider boycotting all parliament sessions in protest.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party said they will also boycott Tuesday’s parliament vote. They too alleged political motives behind the case.

Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian linked it with the presidential ballot due in February. “Either everyone or no one must be stripped of immunity,” Hovannisian told a news conference. “That includes the current and former presidents along with their staffs, the current and former prime ministers and ministers and their staffs, the current and former parliament speakers and deputies.”

Hovannisian said at the same time that Oskanian himself is responsible for past government “repressions” because of having been a key member of former President Robert Kocharian’s administration. The Zharangutyun leader singled out the Kocharian government’s deadly post-election crackdown on the opposition in March 2008.

Nikol Pashinian, a deputy from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), similarly cited Oskanian’s alleged responsibility for the 2008 bloodshed. Pashinian, who spent nearly two years in prison as part of that crackdown, said this is a key reason why he will vote for Oskanian’s prosecution despite considering the accusations politically motivated.

It was not clear if the six other HAK deputies will do the same. HAK representatives said their parliamentary faction will announce its stance on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the majority of parliament seats, again effectively confirmed its intention to strip Oskanian of his parliamentary immunity. Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, also denied any government pressure on the BHK. “We were singing the same song as recently as six or seven months ago,” he said.

The BHK was represented in the Armenian government by four ministers until June. Gagik Tsarukian, its top leader close to Kocharian, decided to pull out of the governing coalition following parliamentary elections controversially won by the HHK.

As the parliament discussed Oskanian’s fate several dozen people, most of them Civilitas employees, demonstrated outside the National Assembly building to voice their solidarity with the ex-minister. They booed HHK deputies entering the building and held placards denouncing the ruling party. One protester also carried a banner saying that “The people are with Tsarukian.”

Salpi Ghazarian, the Civilitas director, was among the protesters. “I hope that there are enough honest, sincere, caring and intelligent people in the parliament,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If their aim is to punish Vartan Oskanian for some political considerations, such punishment will primarily hurt Armenia’s reputation.”

Earlier in the day, Civilitas circulated statements by two of its Honorary Board members, Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and U.S.-Armenian rock singer Serj Tankian, condemning the case. “The persecution of Vartan Oskanian is a deplorable and politically motivated action which is extremely dangerous to the health of the country,” said Egoyan.

Source: RFE/RLOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Government v Vardan Oskanian – A Case of Political Persecution or a Crafty Political Ploy?
  2. Persecution ahead of presidential vote?: MP Oskanian insists criminal case against Civilitas “political order”
  3. Al Jazeera refers to Vartan Oskanian and Civilitas Foundation case (video)
  4. “Oskanian Case” reveals extent of political struggle in Armenia ahead of presidential campaign
  5. U.S. Envoy Questions Criminal Case Against Oskanian

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Tensions between President Serzh Sarkisian and his former main coalition partner rose further on Monday when the Armenian parliament debated controversial criminal proceedings launched former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized details of the fraud case as he asked deputies to lift the fellow lawmaker’s legal immunity from prosecution.

Oskanian again strongly denied it as a “political order” directed against himself and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the National Assembly.

Information about the criminal case has been scant until now, with Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) only alleging money-laundering stemming from a lavish donation made to the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank founded by Oskanian, by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. in 2010. The money was generated by the sale of a construction materials plant that was built by Huntsman in Yerevan in the early 1990s. 

In his speech at the National Assembly, Hovsepian said that $1.4 million in proceeds from that deal was transferred to one of Oskanian’s Armenian bank accounts in January 2011. He said the Syrian-born former minister not only failed to deposit the sum with a separate Civilitas account but also spent more than $181,000 of it “for personal purposes.”

“I cannot say publicly which restaurant or hotel bills were paid with that money,” Hovsepian said when pressed by some lawmakers. He said the NSS should therefore be allowed to charge Oskanian with large-scale embezzlement and money laundering.

Corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code carry between 4 and 12 years’ imprisonment.

Oskanian strongly denied misappropriating any portion of the donation, saying that “every penny” of it was transferred to the Civilitas account on Saturday. He as well as several other deputies argued neither Huntsman nor the Civilitas management has filed any complaints about the matter.

x

Armenia — Armenia’s General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian (R) asks the parliament to allow NA deputy Vartan Oskanian’s prosecution in a criminal case of alleged money laundering, 1Oct, 2012

​​Hovsepian dismissed this argument, saying that law-enforcement authorities do not need such a complaint to launch a criminal investigation. He also described as coincidence the fact that the case was opened shortly after Oskanian, who served as foreign minister from 1998-2008, returned to the political arena and began harshly criticizing the government early this year.

Oskanian insisted, however, that the case is politically motivated. “Armenia is preparing for presidential elections and this case is an attempt to exert strong pressure on the BHK ahead of those elections,” he told the parliament. “These authorities are talking to political opponents in the language of hostage takers.”

The BHK leadership likewise claimed to be facing “political persecution” when it reacted to the Armenian authorities’ decision to prosecute Oskanian on Friday. A senior BHK lawmaker, Naira Zohrabian, said during Monday’s debate that the party’s parliamentary faction will walk out of the parliament building when the mostly pro-government deputies vote on the chief prosecutor’s petition on Tuesday. Zohrabian said the BHK will also consider boycotting all parliament sessions in protest.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party said they will also boycott Tuesday’s parliament vote. They too alleged political motives behind the case.

Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian linked it with the presidential ballot due in February. “Either everyone or no one must be stripped of immunity,” Hovannisian told a news conference. “That includes the current and former presidents along with their staffs, the current and former prime ministers and ministers and their staffs, the current and former parliament speakers and deputies.”

Hovannisian said at the same time that Oskanian himself is responsible for past government “repressions” because of having been a key member of former President Robert Kocharian’s administration. The Zharangutyun leader singled out the Kocharian government’s deadly post-election crackdown on the opposition in March 2008.

Nikol Pashinian, a deputy from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), similarly cited Oskanian’s alleged responsibility for the 2008 bloodshed. Pashinian, who spent nearly two years in prison as part of that crackdown, said this is a key reason why he will vote for Oskanian’s prosecution despite considering the accusations politically motivated.

It was not clear if the six other HAK deputies will do the same. HAK representatives said their parliamentary faction will announce its stance on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the majority of parliament seats, again effectively confirmed its intention to strip Oskanian of his parliamentary immunity. Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, also denied any government pressure on the BHK. “We were singing the same song as recently as six or seven months ago,” he said.

The BHK was represented in the Armenian government by four ministers until June. Gagik Tsarukian, its top leader close to Kocharian, decided to pull out of the governing coalition following parliamentary elections controversially won by the HHK.

As the parliament discussed Oskanian’s fate several dozen people, most of them Civilitas employees, demonstrated outside the National Assembly building to voice their solidarity with the ex-minister. They booed HHK deputies entering the building and held placards denouncing the ruling party. One protester also carried a banner saying that “The people are with Tsarukian.”

Salpi Ghazarian, the Civilitas director, was among the protesters. “I hope that there are enough honest, sincere, caring and intelligent people in the parliament,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If their aim is to punish Vartan Oskanian for some political considerations, such punishment will primarily hurt Armenia’s reputation.”

Earlier in the day, Civilitas circulated statements by two of its Honorary Board members, Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and U.S.-Armenian rock singer Serj Tankian, condemning the case. “The persecution of Vartan Oskanian is a deplorable and politically motivated action which is extremely dangerous to the health of the country,” said Egoyan.

Source: RFE/RLOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Government v Vardan Oskanian – A Case of Political Persecution or a Crafty Political Ploy?
  2. Persecution ahead of presidential vote?: MP Oskanian insists criminal case against Civilitas “political order”
  3. Al Jazeera refers to Vartan Oskanian and Civilitas Foundation case (video)
  4. “Oskanian Case” reveals extent of political struggle in Armenia ahead of presidential campaign
  5. U.S. Envoy Questions Criminal Case Against Oskanian

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Tensions between President Serzh Sarkisian and his former main coalition partner rose further on Monday when the Armenian parliament debated controversial criminal proceedings launched former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized details of the fraud case as he asked deputies to lift the fellow lawmaker’s legal immunity from prosecution.

Oskanian again strongly denied it as a “political order” directed against himself and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the National Assembly.

Information about the criminal case has been scant until now, with Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) only alleging money-laundering stemming from a lavish donation made to the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank founded by Oskanian, by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. in 2010. The money was generated by the sale of a construction materials plant that was built by Huntsman in Yerevan in the early 1990s. 

In his speech at the National Assembly, Hovsepian said that $1.4 million in proceeds from that deal was transferred to one of Oskanian’s Armenian bank accounts in January 2011. He said the Syrian-born former minister not only failed to deposit the sum with a separate Civilitas account but also spent more than $181,000 of it “for personal purposes.”

“I cannot say publicly which restaurant or hotel bills were paid with that money,” Hovsepian said when pressed by some lawmakers. He said the NSS should therefore be allowed to charge Oskanian with large-scale embezzlement and money laundering.

Corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code carry between 4 and 12 years’ imprisonment.

Oskanian strongly denied misappropriating any portion of the donation, saying that “every penny” of it was transferred to the Civilitas account on Saturday. He as well as several other deputies argued neither Huntsman nor the Civilitas management has filed any complaints about the matter.

x

Armenia — Armenia’s General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian (R) asks the parliament to allow NA deputy Vartan Oskanian’s prosecution in a criminal case of alleged money laundering, 1Oct, 2012

​​Hovsepian dismissed this argument, saying that law-enforcement authorities do not need such a complaint to launch a criminal investigation. He also described as coincidence the fact that the case was opened shortly after Oskanian, who served as foreign minister from 1998-2008, returned to the political arena and began harshly criticizing the government early this year.

Oskanian insisted, however, that the case is politically motivated. “Armenia is preparing for presidential elections and this case is an attempt to exert strong pressure on the BHK ahead of those elections,” he told the parliament. “These authorities are talking to political opponents in the language of hostage takers.”

The BHK leadership likewise claimed to be facing “political persecution” when it reacted to the Armenian authorities’ decision to prosecute Oskanian on Friday. A senior BHK lawmaker, Naira Zohrabian, said during Monday’s debate that the party’s parliamentary faction will walk out of the parliament building when the mostly pro-government deputies vote on the chief prosecutor’s petition on Tuesday. Zohrabian said the BHK will also consider boycotting all parliament sessions in protest.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party said they will also boycott Tuesday’s parliament vote. They too alleged political motives behind the case.

Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian linked it with the presidential ballot due in February. “Either everyone or no one must be stripped of immunity,” Hovannisian told a news conference. “That includes the current and former presidents along with their staffs, the current and former prime ministers and ministers and their staffs, the current and former parliament speakers and deputies.”

Hovannisian said at the same time that Oskanian himself is responsible for past government “repressions” because of having been a key member of former President Robert Kocharian’s administration. The Zharangutyun leader singled out the Kocharian government’s deadly post-election crackdown on the opposition in March 2008.

Nikol Pashinian, a deputy from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), similarly cited Oskanian’s alleged responsibility for the 2008 bloodshed. Pashinian, who spent nearly two years in prison as part of that crackdown, said this is a key reason why he will vote for Oskanian’s prosecution despite considering the accusations politically motivated.

It was not clear if the six other HAK deputies will do the same. HAK representatives said their parliamentary faction will announce its stance on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the majority of parliament seats, again effectively confirmed its intention to strip Oskanian of his parliamentary immunity. Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, also denied any government pressure on the BHK. “We were singing the same song as recently as six or seven months ago,” he said.

The BHK was represented in the Armenian government by four ministers until June. Gagik Tsarukian, its top leader close to Kocharian, decided to pull out of the governing coalition following parliamentary elections controversially won by the HHK.

As the parliament discussed Oskanian’s fate several dozen people, most of them Civilitas employees, demonstrated outside the National Assembly building to voice their solidarity with the ex-minister. They booed HHK deputies entering the building and held placards denouncing the ruling party. One protester also carried a banner saying that “The people are with Tsarukian.”

Salpi Ghazarian, the Civilitas director, was among the protesters. “I hope that there are enough honest, sincere, caring and intelligent people in the parliament,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If their aim is to punish Vartan Oskanian for some political considerations, such punishment will primarily hurt Armenia’s reputation.”

Earlier in the day, Civilitas circulated statements by two of its Honorary Board members, Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and U.S.-Armenian rock singer Serj Tankian, condemning the case. “The persecution of Vartan Oskanian is a deplorable and politically motivated action which is extremely dangerous to the health of the country,” said Egoyan.

Source: RFE/RLOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Government v Vardan Oskanian – A Case of Political Persecution or a Crafty Political Ploy?
  2. Persecution ahead of presidential vote?: MP Oskanian insists criminal case against Civilitas “political order”
  3. Al Jazeera refers to Vartan Oskanian and Civilitas Foundation case (video)
  4. “Oskanian Case” reveals extent of political struggle in Armenia ahead of presidential campaign
  5. U.S. Envoy Questions Criminal Case Against Oskanian

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

Tensions between President Serzh Sarkisian and his former main coalition partner rose further on Monday when the Armenian parliament debated controversial criminal proceedings launched former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized details of the fraud case as he asked deputies to lift the fellow lawmaker’s legal immunity from prosecution.

Oskanian again strongly denied it as a “political order” directed against himself and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the National Assembly.

Information about the criminal case has been scant until now, with Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) only alleging money-laundering stemming from a lavish donation made to the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan think-tank founded by Oskanian, by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. in 2010. The money was generated by the sale of a construction materials plant that was built by Huntsman in Yerevan in the early 1990s. 

In his speech at the National Assembly, Hovsepian said that $1.4 million in proceeds from that deal was transferred to one of Oskanian’s Armenian bank accounts in January 2011. He said the Syrian-born former minister not only failed to deposit the sum with a separate Civilitas account but also spent more than $181,000 of it “for personal purposes.”

“I cannot say publicly which restaurant or hotel bills were paid with that money,” Hovsepian said when pressed by some lawmakers. He said the NSS should therefore be allowed to charge Oskanian with large-scale embezzlement and money laundering.

Corresponding articles of the Armenian Criminal Code carry between 4 and 12 years’ imprisonment.

Oskanian strongly denied misappropriating any portion of the donation, saying that “every penny” of it was transferred to the Civilitas account on Saturday. He as well as several other deputies argued neither Huntsman nor the Civilitas management has filed any complaints about the matter.

x

Armenia — Armenia’s General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian (R) asks the parliament to allow NA deputy Vartan Oskanian’s prosecution in a criminal case of alleged money laundering, 1Oct, 2012

​​Hovsepian dismissed this argument, saying that law-enforcement authorities do not need such a complaint to launch a criminal investigation. He also described as coincidence the fact that the case was opened shortly after Oskanian, who served as foreign minister from 1998-2008, returned to the political arena and began harshly criticizing the government early this year.

Oskanian insisted, however, that the case is politically motivated. “Armenia is preparing for presidential elections and this case is an attempt to exert strong pressure on the BHK ahead of those elections,” he told the parliament. “These authorities are talking to political opponents in the language of hostage takers.”

The BHK leadership likewise claimed to be facing “political persecution” when it reacted to the Armenian authorities’ decision to prosecute Oskanian on Friday. A senior BHK lawmaker, Naira Zohrabian, said during Monday’s debate that the party’s parliamentary faction will walk out of the parliament building when the mostly pro-government deputies vote on the chief prosecutor’s petition on Tuesday. Zohrabian said the BHK will also consider boycotting all parliament sessions in protest.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party said they will also boycott Tuesday’s parliament vote. They too alleged political motives behind the case.

Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian linked it with the presidential ballot due in February. “Either everyone or no one must be stripped of immunity,” Hovannisian told a news conference. “That includes the current and former presidents along with their staffs, the current and former prime ministers and ministers and their staffs, the current and former parliament speakers and deputies.”

Hovannisian said at the same time that Oskanian himself is responsible for past government “repressions” because of having been a key member of former President Robert Kocharian’s administration. The Zharangutyun leader singled out the Kocharian government’s deadly post-election crackdown on the opposition in March 2008.

Nikol Pashinian, a deputy from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), similarly cited Oskanian’s alleged responsibility for the 2008 bloodshed. Pashinian, who spent nearly two years in prison as part of that crackdown, said this is a key reason why he will vote for Oskanian’s prosecution despite considering the accusations politically motivated.

It was not clear if the six other HAK deputies will do the same. HAK representatives said their parliamentary faction will announce its stance on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the majority of parliament seats, again effectively confirmed its intention to strip Oskanian of his parliamentary immunity. Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, also denied any government pressure on the BHK. “We were singing the same song as recently as six or seven months ago,” he said.

The BHK was represented in the Armenian government by four ministers until June. Gagik Tsarukian, its top leader close to Kocharian, decided to pull out of the governing coalition following parliamentary elections controversially won by the HHK.

As the parliament discussed Oskanian’s fate several dozen people, most of them Civilitas employees, demonstrated outside the National Assembly building to voice their solidarity with the ex-minister. They booed HHK deputies entering the building and held placards denouncing the ruling party. One protester also carried a banner saying that “The people are with Tsarukian.”

Salpi Ghazarian, the Civilitas director, was among the protesters. “I hope that there are enough honest, sincere, caring and intelligent people in the parliament,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If their aim is to punish Vartan Oskanian for some political considerations, such punishment will primarily hurt Armenia’s reputation.”

Earlier in the day, Civilitas circulated statements by two of its Honorary Board members, Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and U.S.-Armenian rock singer Serj Tankian, condemning the case. “The persecution of Vartan Oskanian is a deplorable and politically motivated action which is extremely dangerous to the health of the country,” said Egoyan.

Source: RFE/RLOriginial Article

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  3. Al Jazeera refers to Vartan Oskanian and Civilitas Foundation case (video)
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Commentary

China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

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21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

In recent years an agreement has been in place  ensuring that for the sake of party unity,  most senior figures would not be investigated. Zhou’s case has been the first to break the agreement and is aimed at party purity instead. Communists are hoping to stay legitimate and to win more supporters. 

The anti-corruption campaign has realized its vow of no off-limit targets, says political scientist Zhang Ming in The Guardian.

reportingproject.net

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.

The writer describes the members of the group as “gun-toting defendants” driving flashy cars “and connected to elaborate schemes in bank fraud, identity theft and other highly sophisticated white-collar crimes.”

Armenian Power originated in the 1980s by young Armenians, mainly from Soviet Armenia, to protect themselves from Mexican gangs in Los Angeles high schools. In time the organization developed working relations with the latter and shifted focus from fighting for territory to fighting for money and power.

My initial reaction to the report, like to all things Armenian, is visceral. Besides the fact that the horrific nature of the group’s actions turns my stomach, I feel angry. There are many positive contributions Armenians make to the communities they live in, so why point out the negative?

I think and catch myself in doing something very typically Armenian: reacting defensively when a non-Armenian criticizes my people. I immediately want to blame someone, mainly the person who is pointing a finger in my direction. This is a natural reaction for those of us who take pride in belonging to a lineage older than Noah’s Ark.

Ancient is the Armenian archetype – our intuitive behavior that has proven to withstand the test of time. We’ve been around so long, we consider ourselves to be wise and flawless. It is in our ethnic genome to revere the old and be doubtful of the new, to respect the elder as authority and dismiss the young as naive and inexperienced, to move in time and space, but not leave the past and the home we left behind. Any divergence from what has history and is the norm, we perceive as deficient, abnormal, lacking.

Young Armenians in American public schools faced with anything but the norm, as they know it, are caught by surprise like objects uprooted by cyclonic winds.

When life throws us into the realm of the unexpected or takes us out of our element, when it forces us to question our truths and face our shortcomings that make us seem not so perfect, we feel ashamed and become unforgiving. This quickly leads us on to the path of self-loathing. Our genesis, the very thing that is the source of our pride and the reason for our being, becomes our handicap in the youth-crazed, ever changing culture of the new world. We feel betrayed.

Additionally, we have been conditioned to put on our best face in public, regardless of what is going on inside. This archetype was reinforced during the Soviet era. We do not air our dirty laundry in public, but proudly display our clean, shiny load in front of our balconies and windows literally and figuratively. We even pride ourselves in the way we pin the pieces next to each other on the clothesline!

So, regardless of our circumstances, we find ways to put on a front like the well choreographed parades of the Soviet government. For God’s sake, we were the first people to adopt Christianity as our state religion! Never mind that our church is void of spirituality and our God cares more about the dead than the living.

Then we boast, and when others dare to not appreciate our genius with expected enthusiasm, we resort to demeaning, deprecating commentary and are not shy about projecting our negative feelings. No one is good enough, smart enough, deserving enough as Armenians. We’re the oldest and the wisest, and therefore most deserving of respect and appreciation.

More than once I have had to counsel a distraught Armenian parent complaining about how people make fun of their perfect child because he/she does not look or act like them.

When our expectations are not met, we are wounded and insulted. This is when the daredevil gene kicks in, and we don’t hesitate to give our perceived enemy a piece of our mind, or show off a flexed muscle.

We call this taseeb (honor): a sentiment that forces an Armenian to pick up a rifle and defend his physical and psychological turf. It is the same sentiment that drives a young Armenian to defend himself from insults and aggression, real or perceived, from a person of a different ethnicity in an American high school.

These archetypes are some of the underlying factors that lead Armenian youth into conflicting situations outside their circles.

In a new and changing world, old archetypes no longer serve the needs of the people, while the new ones are constantly elusive. Coupled with the desire to belong and to fit in, this drives people to adopt clichés that are readily available in a world congested with material, ideas and attitudes. Thus, to be accepted by the out-groups, to measure up and to be competitive, they quickly adopt what is more accessible to them for putting on the “perfect face.”

Designer clothing and accessories, Mercedes, BMW, Porches, attitudes and gestures we don’t quite grasp but admire, just about anything that we perceive as distinguishing and defining the out-group we are so eager to be a part of and be appreciated by, we collect. Clichés are easy to launder, polish, and pin on one’s life’s “clothes line”. Life in the new world becomes a long string of clichés.

In the absence of archetypes, reality is re-imagined, improvised like life on a theater stage, Marshall McLuhan explains. On this stage, young people are the characters of their own show, and there is nothing in the world more important than that until new archetypes take form.

The mafia or its modern day version – gangs that are a common occurrence in societies constantly in flux – is the stage where young people play out their roles. There have been Irish,   Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Mexican gangs in America prior to the Armenians.

Every wave of new arrivals, every wave of change, brings with it a new set of expectations and challenges. While families try to decipher the laws, rules, and traditions of their new environment, the young tend to gravitate towards groups that fill the need for belonging and provide a security network.

Some, more than others, in every group are willing to break rules often to their own detriment while caught between archetypes of the old world and the clichés of the new.

Marineh Khachadour is an educator, writer, researcher working in a public school in Pasadena, California.  She lived in Armenia from 1992-1998. During that time she provided educational services and resources for Armenian women and children including refugees and served as Gender in Development Expert with UNDP, Armenia from 1995-1998.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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Want to Write for Hetq?

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10:24, March 14, 2014

I’m looking for freelancers who can broaden the scope of Hetq’s English edition

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Politics, Civil Society, Interviews…

Anything interesting happening in your local community you’d like to share?

Write to me with your ideas and story suggestions.

Hrant at hg.hetq@gmail.com

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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For Better or For Worse: Nature Protection Ministry Proposes Amendments to Water Use Laws

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16:44, February 14, 2014

With the goal of providing a systematic solution to issues of effective use of water resources in Ararat valley, the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia (RA) is proposing amendments and additions to the RA Water Code, and the RA laws on the Republic of Armenia’s National Water Program, on Licensing, and on State Tax.

The proposed legislative package has been sent to the relevant state agencies for their input.

Head of the Ministry of Nature Protection’s Water Resources Management Agency Volodya Narimanyan told Hetq, said that with this amendment package his ministry is attempting to clarify the ideas and the ambiguous commentary, as well as introduce new requirements. For example, one of the main points of the proposed amendments is if water use permit conditions are not met, the water use permit might be annulled.

“In the past, if water use conditions weren’t met, we couldn’t void the permit, but now we’re making that clear. If the state gives you a water use permit with this condition, be kind and meet this condition; otherwise, we will make the permit null and void,” he explained.

A new requirement in the proposed package concerning the execution of drilling operations stipulates that a drilling company or individual must obtain a license so that the state can supervise its activities. “Those companies that execute drilling must have a license for drilling. That is, we are proposing to license activities,” he added.

After the relevant state bodies discuss and submit their opinions regarding the amendments, Narimanyan says, the package will be sent to the RA Ministry of Justice, the government, then finally to parliament.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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2013 in Civil Society: Protests and more protests

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The struggle of civil movements this year has been comprehensive and diverse with limited success in certain fields due to unified efforts and active involvement of the civil society.

Despite the rather passive start of the year in terms of civil movements, the second half of 2013 turned out to be tense with active developments.

Some analysts believe that especially after the February 18 presidential ballot, when current president Serzh Sargsyan won a decisive victory over his opponents and was re-elected for a second term, despite the widespread poverty and atmosphere of injustice in the country, people became even more aware of the fact that is it impossible to achieve changes via elections and started practicing their constitutional rights to civil protest and disobedience more frequently.

Karabakh war veterans’ civil standoff has been unprecedented. Although, every now and then on different occasions they had complained of their social conditions and of being neglected by the state , however never before had they come out to hold systematic rallies and sitting strikes. Retired army colonel Volodya Avetisyan initiated the civil standoff in May and in October found himself behind the bars, with charges of “swindling …in large amounts”. Avetisyan’s and his comrades-in-arms claim that by bringing charges the authorities are trying to silence him. The war vets demanding increase of their pensions and various privileges have now focused their struggle on various acts of protest in Avetisyan’s support. There is another group of Karabakh war veterans presenting political demands to the government. Every Thursday they hold small rallies in Liberty Square and demand that the government resign.

Yerevan mayor Taron Margaryan’s decision to raise public bus fare by 50 percent made the hot Yerevan summer even hotter.

The decision was immediately followed by a civil movement when numerous young activists held a variety of acts of protest during five consecutive days relentlessly struggling, rebelling against the bus fare increase and made the municipal government in the Armenian capital heed the people’s voice, forcing them to understand they would not pay more for using the overloaded, worn-out and hardly functioning minibuses.

The unified effort yielded results and on July 26 the mayor suspended the application of his decision temporarily, meaning that the buses and minibuses continued operating for the same 100 dram fare (around 24 cents). The mayor, however, stated that if residents of Yerevan wanted to have decent public transport services, they have to be ready to pay more. Municipal officials and transport companies running the routes have repeatedly stated after the summer civil standoff that the rise of bus fare is unavoidable, grounding it by the fact that everything else has become more expensive except for public transport services, hence their expenses have grown and they are operating at a loss.

The departing year has turned out to be rather active also in terms of public protests against controversial construction projects. In August, residents of 10 and 12 Sayat-Nova Avenue and 5 Komitas streets, in Yerevan, rebelled against construction in their neighborhoods. These people claim that the construction licenses in densely populated zones of the city are illegal, violate the seismic resistance norms, and block their light. Despite the variety of measures the residents have resorted to, even lying down in front of construction machines to block their way, no tangible results have been achieved; their struggle is ongoing (h).

Despite a drawn-out battle to preserve unchanged Yerevan’s Pak Shuka (“Covered Market”), on the list of historical-cultural heritage and belonging to businessman MP Samvel Alexanyan, opened its doors after two years of repairs, but now as a fashionable supermarket, rather than the produce market it used to be. Although ruling Republican MP Alexanyan kept the fa

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