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Defense Attorneys in Armenia’s Largest ‘Drug Bust’ Trial Demand Not-Guilty Verdict

December 24, 2014 Armenia, Georgia, Turkey No Comments
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01:20, December 24, 2014

Avtandil Martiashvili, one the two men charged with involvement in Armenia’s largest drug bust made a motion at yesterday’s trial for the state prosecutor to recuse himself.

Martiashvili, a Georgian citizen who was driving a truck when 850 kilos of heroin were seized on January 17, 2014 at the Meghri customs house, argued that Prosecutor A. Panosyan had preconceived beliefs about the case and that he should resign.

The defendant, one of whose attorneys never showed up at the Goris branch of the Syunik Court of Jurisdiction, also demanded that the court appointed interpreter be dismissed as well due to a lack of quality work. Martiashvili claimed that the translations from Armenian to Georgian are so poor that he can’t understand what the prosecutor is saying.

Azerbaijan Has Highest Journo Jailings Per Capita

December 23, 2014 Africa, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey No Comments
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17:04, December 23, 2014

With nine journalists currently behind bars, Azerbaijan is ranked 9th on the list of 10 world’s worst journalist jailers the Committee to Protect Journalists published for 2014. But when you consider the per capita rate, it is second only behind the hyper repressive Eritrean regime in Africa,according to an analysis by journalist Till Buckner.

Graph from Till Bruckner’s 2014 study

Using numbers from the Center to Protect Journalists, China tops the list with 44 imprisoned journalists but considering the size of the country’s population of 1.3 billion, this means one jailed journalist to 30.8 million residents. Including the size of the country in population reshuffles CPJ’s list and propels the Alijev regime to the top ahead of such other bastions of anti-democracy as Iran, Syria, Burma and Vietnam.  Of the countries, Azerbaijan leads all of them in hypocrisy – it’s the only one that presents itself as a democracy.  It’s time to drop that charade now.

Armenia’s National Football Squad Closes Year in 79th Place

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13:34, December 18, 2014

According to the latest FIFA rankings of national football teams released today Armenia came in 79th, a drop of two spots, with an overall score of 436.

In December 2013 Armenia was ranked 35th in the world. By January of the following year it had slipped to 38th place but jumped to 30th, its best ranking ever, just one month later. It’s been downhill ever since.

World champion Germany remains in first place followed Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Netherlands, Brazil, Portugal, France, Spain and Uruguay.

As for Armenia’s competition in the qualifying round in Group I for Euro-2016, Denmark was today ranked 30th in the world, Portugal (tied with France for 7th place), Serbia – 38th, and Albania – 58th.

Defendant in Armenia’s Biggest Drug Bust Testifies He Was Offered $100K

December 12, 2014 Armenia, Business, Georgia, Turkey No Comments
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12:33, December 12, 2014

At yesterday’s trial of Armenia’ biggest drug bust to date, one of the two men charged in attempting to smuggle 850 kilos of heroin into Armenia from Iran by truck on January 17, 2014, testified that he was offered US$ 1000,000 for the job but that he refused.

This is what Osman Oğurlu, a Turkish citizen who is accused of organizing the transport of the aforementioned quantity of drugs to Turkey via Armenia in cahoots with two brothers, also Turkish citizens, told the Syunik Regional Court in Goris yesterday.

Closed Border Hurting Eastern Turkey More than Armenia, Says New Hrant Dink Foundation Study

December 9, 2014 Armenia, Business, Georgia, Turkey No Comments
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10:50, December 9, 2014

According to a recent study entitled ‘‘Research on the Socio-Economic Impact of the Turkey-Armenia Border’’ commissioned by the Hrant Dink Foundation it would appear that the closed border between the two neighboring countries is hurting citizens on the Turkish side more than the Armenian.

On page 73 of the study we read:

The TRA2 region (Kars, Iğdır, Ağrı, Ardahan),a majority of which is located right on the border with Armenia, cannot benefit from the opportunities offered by free trade agreements – unlike the other regions of Turkey – due to the sealed border. The region also cannot benefit from the indirect trade between Armenia and Turkey as the border is closed and these goods get shipped from regions close to Georgia or Iran borders. Besides, since the existing trade with Armenia is not legal and comes at a high transit cost, due to the sealed land border, the volume of the existing trade remains very limited.

Armenia Ranks 94 Out of 175 in Transparency International Corruption Index

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22:03, December 3, 2014

Armenia ranked 94th out of the 175 countries included in the 2014 in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) recently released by Transparency International.

Armenia’s score of 37 was a tad better than its 36 score for 2013 and 3 points better than 2012.

As for Armenia’s neighbors, Georgia had a ranking of 52, Turkey – 64, Azerbaijan – 126, and Iran – 136. 

Denmark came in first with a score of 92. North Korea and Somalia tied for 174th place with a ranking of 8.

The Berlin-based NGO’s index ranks countries on a scale from 0 (high corruption) to 100 (low corruption).

Turkey And Bosnia Slip In Fight Against Corruption, Says New Transparency International Index

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20:34, December 3, 2014

Transparency International has released its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2014, identifying Turkey as the country whose reputation for graft has grown the most in the past year.

Turkey’s reputation suffered in 2014 amid fallout from a corruption scandal that first broke late last December. Under former Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country took a number of stern steps to clamp down on the case, including arresting dozens of police who were investigating officials, temporarily blocking Twitter, and, most recently, banning media coverage of the scandal. Turkey’s score dropped by five points since last year, from 50 to 45. Other countries whose scores dropped include Angola, China, Malawi and Rwanda, all of which dropped by four points.

Corruption In Armenia ‘Unchanged In 2014’


The extent of government corruption in Armenia has practically not changed and remained quite high over the past year, according to an annual global survey released by Transparency International on Wednesday. 

Armenia ranked, along with four African states, 94th of 174 countries and territories evaluated in the Berlin-based watchdog’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). It occupied the same position in last year’s CPI which covered 177 nations.

The nations surveyed were again rated on a 100 point scale measuring the degree of good governance as perceived by businesspeople and experts. Armenia received a CPI score of 37, slightly up from 36 in 2013 and 34 in 2012.

Turkish police clash with Kobane protesters near Syria border

December 3, 2014 Armenia, Turkey No Comments
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Turkish police have clashed with protesters demonstrating in support of the Kurdish town of Kobane near Syria’s border with Turkey, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
The Democratic Regions Party (DBP), which shares similar grassroots with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), organized the demonstration in the Silopi district of the southeastern province of Shirnak on Dec. 2. The group peacefully marched to protest the ongoing attacks of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Kobane.
The clashes started after the march, after some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and the police used tear gas, Doğan News Agency reported. An armored police vehicle was set alight in the clashes, but police were able to extinguish the fire with water cannon. 

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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.

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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.