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Police Crackdown ‘Investigated’

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An Armenian law-enforcement agency launched on Friday a criminal investigation into excessive police use of force against protesters and journalists which was reported during last week’s dispersal of a demonstration in Yerevan.

The police detained more than 230 people early on June 23 as they broke up a protest on the city’s central Marshal Bagramian Avenue against a controversial electricity price hike. All of them were set free several hours later.

More than two dozen protesters were injured in the crackdown. Sixteen of them reportedly filed lawsuits with the European Court of Human Rights in the following days.

Italy: Human Trafficker Who Caused Shipwreck Gets 18 Years

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12:58, July 3, 2015

A court in Italy has sentenced the human trafficker who helped cause the catastrophic 2013 shipwreck near Lampedusa in which 366 migrants lost their lives.

According to Reuters, Khaled Bensalem was handed an 18-year sentence at a court in Agrigento, Sicily, for multiple manslaughter and aiding illegal immigration.

The 36-year-old Tunisian’s sentence was reportedly cut by a third from the maximum penalty since he opted for a fast-track trial that offers reduced sentences for defendants who plead guilty.

On Oct. 3, 2013, Bensalem captained a ship that, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, departed from Libya carrying 500 people, mostly Eritrean, across the Mediterranean.

When the motor broke down near the Italian coast, passengers set clothing and blankets alight to attract attention.

Russia’s Eurasian Ambitions, Tools and Ways of Leverage

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15:58, July 3, 2015

By Anush Sedrakyan, Political analyst

The 21stcentury has drastically changed the epoch’s face, and new challenges came forward. Before the 21stcentury a relative equilibrium had been dominating in geopolitical field: technologically developed countries were powerful by their modern technologies, while countries providing raw material – by their resources. However, technological progress changed this balance.

Russia’s place and position in Eurasian partnership

Russia perceived sharp after-effect of geopolitical transitions very late, especially when post-Soviet countries started active negotiations with the EU, as well as with the USA.

1. Military  security zone. Russia is flatland; its security zone can’t be restricted by any natural barriers, i.e. by mountain ranges. To defend its own zones of influence Russia has only one guarantee, i.e. deploying military bases.  West-oriented Ukraine (in European part) and Georgia (in South Caucasus) have reduced Russia’s security zone.

‘Provocative’ EU Flags Anger Yerevan Protesters

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Paruyr Hayrikian, a veteran Armenian politician and Soviet-era dissident, scuffled with angry youth activists in Yerevan late on Thursday after joining their nonstop demonstration against an electricity price rise with European Union flags.

They accused him of giving more weight to Russian claims that the ongoing “Electric Yerevan” movement is part of a Western conspiracy to trigger another “color revolution” in the former Soviet Union.

Hayrikian and about a dozen of his supporters waved EU and Armenian flags as they made their way into a section of the city’s Marshal Bagramian Avenue that has been blocked by the mostly young protesters for the past 11 days. This angered some of those activists, who started booing and chanting “Provocateur!” and “Go away!”

Azerbaijan: Four Meydan TV Reporters Slapped with Travel Ban, Placed on ‘Blacklist’

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22:13, June 30, 2015

Just two days after the European Games closed in Azerbaijan, four journalists say they were barred from leaving the country and told they were placed on a government “blacklist.” 

 

The four reporters for OCCRP partner organization Meydan TV – Ayten Alakbarova, Şirin Tire Abbasov, Natiq Cavadli and Elnur Muxtar – were stopped at the border while travelling to the Republic of Georgia.

Officials reportedly told the reporters that they had been placed on a government “blacklist” but gave no explanation as to why they were not allowed to leave.

No official comment has yet been made by Azerbaijani authorities regarding the incident at the border.

Russia: Supreme Court Upholds Life Sentences of Politkovskaya Murder Convicts

June 30, 2015 Armenia, Asia, Europe No Comments
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15:03, June 30, 2015

Russia’s Supreme Court has upheld the life sentences of two men convicted of the 2006 murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. 

The two men were among five Chechen nationals convicted of the crime last year.

The verdict was originally given on June 9 2014, but an appeal by the five was heard by the Supreme Court last week.

Rustam Makhmudov, who shot Politkovskaya, and his uncle Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, who organized the group responsible for arranging the murder, were both sentenced last June to life imprisonment.

The three others convicted for involvement in the killing – former policeman Sergei Khadzhikurbanov as well as the brothers of Politkovskaya’s assassin, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov – received sentences of 20, 14 and 12 years respectively.

Aliyev Family Owns Some of the Best Hotels in Baku

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10:55, June 29, 2015

BY KHADIJA ISMAYILOVA 

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev has spent billions on capturing the world’s attention to the European Games in his Caspian seaside capital of Baku. He has spared no expense, including slapping plastic facades on tired buildings, building new roads and booking megastar Lady Gaga for the Opening Ceremonies. The best hotels are booked solid.

In its two-week run, the first-ever competition played host to and showcased 6,000 athletes and 3,000 officials and support staff from 50 countries.

While taxpayers ultimately foot the bill for this, two privileged citizens have been massively enriched by the games: the president’s daughters.

Armenian Police Again Threaten To End ‘ElectricYerevan’ Protests

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The Armenian police renewed on Sunday their threats to forcibly break up continuing nonstop demonstrations in Yerevan against a controversial increase in electricity prices.

Colonel Valeri Osipian, a deputy chief of the Yerevan police, said security forces will “try to restore public order” if Marshal Bagramian Avenue, a key thoroughfare leading to the presidential palace, remains blocked by protesters after 11:00 pm local time

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Armenia – Valeri Osipian, deputy chief of the Yerevan police, inspects trash containers used as a barricade by protesters on Marshal Bagramian Avenue, Yerevan, 28Jun2015.

“Within the framework of the law, the police will take measures to restore public order on Bagramian Avenue and punish delinquent persons,” Osipian told reporters at the scene of the protests.

Turkey: Journalist Investigated for Criticizing Erdogan

June 25, 2015 Armenia, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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17:46, June 25, 2015

A US-based correspondent for the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet may be facing libel charges after writing a book that criticizes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Istanbul’s chief prosecutor is investigating Tolga Tanis, who is based in Washington, after Erdogan’s lawyer Ahmet Ozel filed a petition accusing him of undermining the reputation of the president.

It appears to fit in with a fresh wave of legal activity by the embattled Turkish president, who has attempted to sue dozens of journalists and activists for damage to his reputation.

According toHurriyet, Ozel claimed that the book contained false information that “could undermine the reputation of, and provoke the public against” his client.

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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.