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Azerbaijan: Prize-Winning OCCRP Reporter Questioned By Regime

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12:17, February 19, 2014

Authorities from the Department for Grave Crimes in Baku summoned Khadija Ismayilova, OCCRP regional coordinator and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent, for questioning Tuesday relating to an alleged leak of state secrets.

Last week, pro-government media outlets claimed that Ismayilova handed over files to undercover United States intelligence agents posing as members of the US Congress, reports azadliq.org.

Ismayilova, who won the 2013 Global Shining Light Award for reporting on government corruption and the unethical business dealings of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s family, said the accusations were a  “provocation” from the government in an attempt to intimidate her.

This is not the first time Ismayilova has faced pressure from government authorities for her reporting in Azerbaijan, whose press freedom has been called “appalling” by Reporters Without Borders.

Uzbekistan: Close Associates Of President’s Daughter Detained

February 19, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Business, Europe No Comments
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14:08, February 19, 2014

Three associates of Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbek president Islam Karimov, have been detained and are being questioned for tax evasion and concealing foreign currency.

According to Radio Free Europe, Karimova’s boyfriend Rustam Madumarov, and two of her close associates, Gayane Avakyan and Yekaterina Klyuyeva, were taken in after authorities searched Karimova’s apartment.

The Uzebek Prosecutor General’s Office released a statement on Monday saying that three had been summoned for questioning after a criminal investigation into the Terra Group, Prime Media, and Gamma Promotion media groups, reports EurasiaNet.org.

Karimova, 41, is a businesswoman, fashion designer, and former diplomat, who according to cables released on Wikileaks, has allegedly been referred to as “the single most hated person in the country” says EurasiaNet.org.

Ankara pressed by EU letters over disputed law

February 19, 2014 Diaspora, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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The European Union has sent its fifth letter to Turkey since the emergence of a major graft probe to urge the Turkish government to proceed with caution over contentious bills on the Internet and the judiciary, the Hurriyet Daily News has learned.
At the same time, the bloc has also expressed its concerns that widespread corruption and graft claims are not being efficiently investigated because of a massive purge of police officers and prosecutors that followed the launch of the Dec. 17, 2013, case, according to sources.
The most recent letter, signed by Stefan Füle, the EU commissioner for enlargement, to EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu arrived in Ankara last week after Parliament approved the controversial Internet Law. The EU Commission confirmed the recent correspondence from Brussels to Ankara, but declined to comment or give details as it does not want to convey its messages via the media.
Earlier, the EU had sent a separate letter on the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) Law and three other letters urging the government to effectively deal with the corruption and graft claims and avoid actions that could undermine or reduce the capacity of the judiciary and police to thoroughly investigate allegations of wrongdoing, ensure accountability and act in an independent manner. Similarly, Brussels has publicly urged the government to take all necessary measures to ensure allegations of wrongdoing are addressed without discrimination or preference in a transparent and impartial manner.
In addition, the same messages were conveyed in the most direct way to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Çavuşoğlu on Feb. 11 during the Turkey-EU Political Dialogue meeting, according to diplomatic sources.
Upon a question from the Daily News, the EU Commission’s spokesperson, Peter Stano, summarized Brussels’ line with regard to the Internet Law. “The law to be adopted imposes important restrictions on the freedom of expression,” he said, citing the obligation for Internet providers to monitor the posted content and keep users’ browsing history for two years, as well as a move to increase the authority of the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) and limit judicial review as important negative aspects of the law.
With regard to the HSYK Law, Stano said it was crucially important for the rule of law in Turkey. “We have underlined, on a number of occasions, our serious concerns regarding the potential impact earlier versions of this law would have had on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and the separation of powers in Turkey.”
He said the commission would now assess the adopted law “to monitor and report on developments in the country in light of the accession criteria.”
The Daily News has also learned that diplomats from the EU delegation in Ankara last week visited the Presidency and expressed Brussels’ concerns over the Internet Law. “They obviously want Mr. President to return the law to the government, but we believe it’s going to be very hard,” a European diplo 

Armenia attracts ‘unexpected’ interest from foreign investors amid talks for Customs Union membership

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Before Armenia has completed negotiations with the Customs Union and become its member interest towards it from foreign investors and businessmen has unexpectedly risen.

The first major American investment – the purchase of the Vorotan cascade of hydro-power plants generating 15 percent of electricity in Armenia – was announced only a month ago. Recently it was reported that a major international conference on the mining industry in Armenia will be held in March.

In this regard, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan met with the ambassadors of the United States, Great Britain, Germany and the head of the World Bank Yerevan Office. This year, a British company plans to begin operation of the largest gold deposit in Amulsar. Apparently, there is interest in other fields as well.

Colombia: Operation With US Finds FARC, ELN Link To Russian Mafia

February 19, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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19:06, February 18, 2014

A newspaper inColombiahas reported a drugs-for-guns arrangement involving the country’s two main guerrilla organizations and the Russian Mafia, in a case which highlights both the close relationship between the rebels and increasing influence of European organized crime.

According to El Tiempo, the arrangement was uncovered after a joint investigation by the FBI and Colombia’s police intelligence unit (Dijin) in which 17 kilos of cocaine were intercepted at sea en route to New York. The operation also saw the arrest of alleged representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) in the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena.

Bulgaria: Leaks Shed Light On Use Of Internet ‘Trolls’

February 17, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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15:33, February 17, 2014

Liliana Lotova, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), has been linked to a public relations company which provided her with personal publicity and positive campaigning on social media while at the same time criticizing European Union Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

Correspondence between Lotova and Leadway Media Solutions was published on Balkanleakson Thursday in which Aneta Avramova, an official in the company, offers Lotova a service package which includes 50 comments in Internet forums, 150 comments on Facebook and 50 tweets, as well as 15 press publications per month. 

The campaign includes both comments that praise Lotova and many that are openly critical of Bulgarian commissioner for humanitarian action, Kristalina Georgieva, reports Bivol.

Independent Scotland ‘difficult, if not impossible’ to integrate with EU: Barroso

February 16, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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It will be “difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to become a member of the EU if it votes to break away from Britain, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned Sunday.”In case there is a new country, a new state, coming out of our current member state, it will have to apply and the application and the accession to the European Union would have to be approved by all the other member states of the European Union,” he told BBC television in reference to Scotland’s upcoming referendum.”I think it would be … extremely difficult to get the approval of all the other member states, to have a new member coming from one member state.”Scots will head to the polls to vote on their independence on September 18.”I believe it’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, a new member state coming out of one of our countries, getting the agreement (of member states),” Barroso said on Sunday, adding it was for the people to decide on the future of Scotland. 

Data protection: Angela Merkel proposes Europe network

February 16, 2014 Armenia, Business, Diaspora, Europe No Comments
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is proposing building up a European communications network to help improve data protection, BBC reports. It would avoid emails and other data automatically passing through the United States.In her weekly podcast, she said she would raise the issue on Wednesday with French President Francois Hollande.Revelations of mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) have prompted huge concern in Europe.Disclosures by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden suggested even the mobile phones of US allies, such as Mrs Merkel, had been monitored by American spies.Classified NSA documents revealed that large amounts of personal data are collected from the internet by US and British surveillance.Mrs Merkel criticized the fact that Facebook and Google can be based in countries with low levels of data protection while carrying out business in nations that offer more rigorous safeguards.”Above all, we’ll talk about European providers that offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send emails and other information across the Atlantic,” she said.”Rather, one could build up a communication network inside Europe.” 

Nagorno-Karabakh parliament chief attends EFA General Assembly

February 15, 2014 Armenia, Europe, Karabakh No Comments
Armenian News

The speaker of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s National Assembly attended on Friday the European Free Alliance’s (EFA) 12th General Assembly in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
At the plenary sessions devoted to fundamental rights and freedoms, Ashot Ghulyan dwelled on the country’s path towards self-determination and independence, underlining that it all that had been achieved with strict observance of the laws, and the norms and principles of international law.
On the sidelines of the event, Mr Gulyan is to meet with the EFA leadership and representatives of member parties.
The European Free Alliance is a European political organization uniting different European parties striving for sovereignty or self-government for their respective region or country. The Alliance is a strong supporter of the right to self-determination; it advocates the right of people to decide their own future. The right to self-determination is the key element in the EFA’s program and ideology. The Alliance has around 40 national and regional member parties from over 17 countries of the EU, which represent stateless people, the national minorities and regions of Europe. 

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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.

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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.

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.

Armenian Foreign Policies 2013: Customs Union, U-turn on EU accord, Karabakh, Turkey, regional developments

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2013 became a milestone year for Armenia not only in its foreign, but also domestic politics. After nearly four years of negotiations with the European Union over the signing of an association agreement on September 3 Armenia unexpectedly announced its intention to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This decision has had its influence not only on Armenia proper, but also on the processes elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Inspired by Armenia’s decision, Russia stepped up its pressure on Ukraine, which suspended the process of signing of the Association Agreement with the EU one week before the Vilnius summit of Eastern Partnership. As a result, on November 29 such agreements were initialed only by Moldova and Georgia.

Heritage reshuffle: Postanjyan becomes new leader of parliamentary faction

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Zaruhi Postanjyan has been elected new head of the opposition Heritage faction in parliament. The change comes after Ruben Hakobyan announced his decision to resign as faction leader earlier today.

Talking to media in parliament Hakobyan said Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian had been notified about his move well in advance. He left questions about reasons for his step without commentary, only saying that he had decided to step down as faction leader before the recent scandal around Postanjyan in the wake of her controversial question to President Serzh Sargsyan about his gambling habit at the PACE plenary session in Strasbourg on October 2.