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Karabakh Court Rejects Azerbaijani Nationals’ Appeals

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A higher court in Nagorno-Karabakh has rejected the appeals by two Azerbaijani nationals who were convicted and jailed last year on charges of committing a number of crimes against the unrecognized ethnic Armenian republic.

Dilham Askerov and Shahbaz Quliyev were sentenced to life and 22 years in prison, respectively, in a 2014 trial that was not recognized by Azerbaijan as legal.

Askerov, 54, and Quliyev, 46, had been charged with murder, espionage, illegal border crossing, and illegal weapons possession.

Authorities in Stepanakert say the two were members of a group of saboteurs that crossed into the region controlled by ethnic Armenian forces in July last year and killed a teenager, an officer and wounded a woman. The third member of the group was allegedly killed while resisting arrest.

Opposition Group Cuts Gyumri Trip Short Amid ‘Provocation’ Fears

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Activists of a radical opposition movement seeking regime change in Armenia cut their trip short and cancelled their planned “automobile march” and rally in the country’s second largest city on Saturday as they claimed to possess information about local authorities’ planning provocations against them.

A motorcade of several dozen cars carrying members of Founding Parliament, a group campaigning for a decisive anti-government push on April 24, the day when the centennial of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey will be commemorated, decided to return to Yerevan from the outskirts of Gyumri where a group of youngsters had reportedly blocked off the main roads leading to the city.

Nalbandian Shuns Israeli FM On Jerusalem Trip

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Underscoring Armenia’s uneasy relationship with Israel, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian has not met with his Israeli counterpart or any other member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government during a rare visit to Jerusalem.

Nalbandian held talks instead with Israel’s largely ceremonial President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday during what the Armenian Foreign Ministry described as a one-day “working visit.” He also attended a concert by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

Ministry statements on the trip did not explain why Nalbandian failed to meet with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other Israeli cabinet members. The ministry spokesman, Tigran Balayan, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Karabakh Policemen Face Dismissal For Violent Crackdown

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Police in Nagorno-Karabakh on Friday moved to sack ten officers for their violent response to dozens of opposition activists from Armenia who attempted to enter the territory in late January.

An ad hoc police commission petitioned the Karabakh police chief, Kamo Aghajanian, to fire them and take disciplinary action against 15 other policemen as a result of a month-long inquiry. It said they committed “blatant” abuses when security forces confronted a motorcade of some 30 cars carrying leaders and members of the Yerevan-based group Founding Parliament.

Aghajanian did not immediately act on the recommendation.

Karabakh Armenian Army Reports ‘Preemptive’ Raids

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Nagorno-Karabakh’s armed forces on Friday claimed to have killed seven Azerbaijani soldiers in two overnight commando raids which they said were aimed at thwarting fresh Azerbaijani ceasefire violations along “the line of contact.”

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry confirmed one of the raids reportedly carried out at a frontline section in northeastern Karabakh. But it insisted that one of its soldiers died in the fighting. According to the APA news agency, the ministry said Karabakh Armenian forces themselves suffered casualties while being repelled by Azerbaijani troops, a claim denied by the military authorities in Stepanakert and Yerevan.

In a statement, the Karabakh Defense Army said its “preemptive” operation left four Azerbaijani commandos dead. It claimed that they were about to attack Defense Army positions in Karabakh’s northern Martakert district.

Azeri, Turkish Warplanes Hold Joint Drills

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The Turkish and Azerbaijani air forces began fresh joint exercises at an airfield in central Turkey on Tuesday, highlighting close military ties between Ankara and Baku.

News reports said their warplanes, including three Azerbaijani MiG-29 fighter jets and three Su-25 attack aircraft, as well as combat helicopters will practice joint operations for the next five weeks.

The Turkish news agency Anatolia said the purpose of the exercises is to “prepare common operation plans and mutual command structures.” It quoted the commander of the Azerbaijani airmen participating in the drills as calling them historic. An Azerbaijani Defense Ministry statement cited by the APA news agency said they stem from a “cooperation plan” for 2015 agreed by the Turkish and Azerbaijani militaries.

Another Lawmaker Quits Tsarukian Party

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Yet another parliament deputy defected from the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) on Tuesday following a government crackdown unleashed against its leader, Gagik Tsarukian.

Rustam Gasparian’s exit reduced to 29 the number of seats held by the BHK in Armenia’s 131-member parliament. Gasparian gave no formal reasons for the move highlighting the uncertain future of Tsarukian’s party.

The party’s parliamentary faction numbered 36 members before President Serzh Sarkisian harshly condemned Tsarukian on January 12 for threatening to oust him and ordered tax audits of many businesses belonging to the BHK leader. Defections from the BHK faction began just before Tsarukian called off a major anti-government demonstration slated for February 20.

Armenia Warns Azerbaijan Over Fresh Karabakh Escalation

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Armenia warned Azerbaijan of “severe consequences” on Monday after two Armenian soldiers were killed in Nagorno-Karabakh in what appears to be a renewed upsurge in fighting in the conflict zone.

Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army said that the servicemen, Artak Aghekian and Hayk Baroyan, were shot dead on Saturday in an Azerbaijani armed incursion in northeastern Karabakh. It reported no other details of the incident.

According to the Yerkir.am, a car carrying Aghekian, Baroyan and three other soldiers was ambushed by Azerbaijani special forces on “the line of contact” around the disputed territory. The news website said Aghekian had the military rank of lieutenant-colonel.

Armenian Defense Chief Attributes Relative Border Calm To ‘Improved Observation System’

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Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian has put down the relative calm recently observed at the border with Azerbaijan as well as along the Line of Contact in Nagorno-Karabakh to improved observation systems put in place by Armenian armed forces.

Speaking at a press briefing in Yerevan on Wednesday, Ohanian also partly attributed reduced tensions to a more active negotiation process conducted recently.

“It can be said that the border situation today is relatively calm because the Armenian Army and the Defense Army of the [unrecognized] Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have for years worked on improving their combat duty services,” the Armenian defense minister said. “Today we have improved our observation system, which makes it possible to conduct observations, detect, locate [the enemy], make decisions and implement them more efficiently.”

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Featured Books

Book Reviews

John Balian’s “Novel Approach” Brings the Armenian Saga to the Masses – An interview with John Balian by Lucine Kasbarian

Gray Wolves and White Doves cover art

Armenians often wish for a tale about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath that would make a blockbuster film and draw attention to their cause. John Balian’s new book, Gray Wolves and White Doves (CreateSpace/Amazon.com), may be that tale.

 Largely autobiographical, this atmospheric novel is presented through the eyes of an innocent young boy trying to make sense of the world as he grows up amid repressive conditions in Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey during the 1960s and 70s.

 This fast-paced, multi-layered narrative takes readers from Hanna Ibelin’s (a.k.a. Jonah Ibelinian’s) close-knit family life in the perilous Asia Minor region of Palu to terror and tragedy while en route to Syria’s Kamishli, to a bleak existence on the mean streets of Istanbul.

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Teaneck, N.J. and Belmont, Mass. –  An Armenian folktale retold by Armenian-American writer Lucine Kasbarian and illustrated by Moscow-based artist Maria Zaikina debuts with Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishers in April 2011.

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is from the ancient Armenian oral tradition and culture, which was nearly obliterated during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915. The author learned the tale from her father, editor and columnist C.K. Garabed, who would recite it to her at bedtime. He had learned it from his own grandmother, a celebrated storyteller from the Old Country.  The tale was first put to paper by Armenian poet Hovhannes Toumanian at the turn of the 20th century.

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Turkish writer and publicist Ahmet Insel labels the initiative of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party to pray namaz on the ruins of Ani as provocation.

In an interview with “A1+,” the publicist said the initiative was supported only by a small percentage of Turks.

“They offered namaz in Ani in protest against Christian rites carried out in Trabzon and Akhtamar. The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahceli said if Christians are allowed to pray inside museums, similarly he can pray namaz in Armenian churches,” said Ahmet Insel.

The Turkish writer arrived in Armenia to participate in a book festival. Presentation of Armenian version of Dialogue sur le tabou arménien (Dialogue about the Armenian Tabou) co-authored by Ahmet Insel and Michel Marian was held during the festival.

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA –  KFI 640, a popular news/talk radio station hosted by Bill Handel on September 23 aired a live interview with Michael Bobelian, the writer of a new book titled  Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice

The book chronicles the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and recounts a people’s struggle for justice in the face of a century of silence and denial.

During the interview, which was aired during the prime morning time slot, Bill Handel addressed both the efforts within the United States to ensure that the US government appropriately acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s ongoing denial.

Handel, a well known and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, has discussed the Armenian Genocide during past shows.

Commentary

Capitalism Run Amok Is Just Plain Capitalism

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16:37, January 17, 2015

By Markar Melkonian

The source of Armenia’s misery and humiliation, we often hear, is not capitalism per se, but rather “gangster capitalism,” “a broken system,” “capitalism run amok.”

The goal for the future, then, is to “fix the system,” to reform capitalism, to make it more like regular, pure, genuine Free Enterprise, the kind of capitalism that works. But what if Armenia’s actually existing capitalism already is genuine capitalism?

An economist once observed that the only existential meaning of “enterprise” in the term free enterprise is “whatever capitalists happen to be doing at the time”–and “free” is the accompanying demand that they be allowed to do it.

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

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13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

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. 

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.